Bridging the gap between Muslims and the West

Muslims and Christians unite behind Southminster Presbyterian Church Saturday.

Portlanders are working to bridge the gap between Muslim and Christian faith communities.

In response to the mass shooting in Orlando last Sunday and current national and international events, Muslim communities in Oregon want to educate Westerners about their faith.

"There's a lot of ignorance about Islam, a lot of fear and misunderstanding," Harris Zafar told KATU's Chris Liedle. "We don't get mad about that, we just want to make ourselves available."

Zafar, outreach director for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Southwest Portland, says his community is opening its doors during Ramadan, the holiest month for Muslims.

Zafar says the "open house" is an opportunity for others to learn about Muslims' faith, traditions and practices.

"There are a lot of people out there that just don't know what Islam is," Zafar said. "There are four walls around this mosque, but it's not closed. We want people to see, we want transparency."

At the Southminster Presbyterian Church in Beaverton, Pastor John Shuck and coordinators held the Ramadan Tent Project, the first of its kind in the country.

Organized by OHSU dental school student Sadaf Assadi, the Ramadan Tent Project is a community-led project that aims to create bridges between individuals, bringing together communities, and fostering interfaith dialogue.

"To have this in the United States for the very first time is huge," she said. Assadi adopted the project after learning about the event, which originated in London in 2011.

The Ramadan Tent Project invites the homeless and the public, Muslims and non-Muslims, to break fast together at dusk during the holy month of Ramadan each year.

Assadi says the goal is to raise awareness about Islam, connecting neighbors and ensuring charitable endeavors continue.

"The world that we are inheriting is going to be one of incredible diversity and we can't stay in our own little cocoons," Pastor Shuck said. "We are far more alike, then we are different."

For more information on the Ramadan Tent Project or how you can get involved, click here.

Ahmadiyya Muslim Community offers weekly Open Houses every Saturday during the holy month of Ramadan. Each Open House begins at 8:30 p.m. and includes a small presentation, congregational prayers, and a complimentary dinner for everyone. The event is open to the public.

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