Dialogue in Action: New York Anchor Offering Dinners, Movies

Liz Dupont-Diehl

Group of people who participated in the Dinner DialoguesEveryday Democracy Anchor Partner InterFaith Works of Central New York (IFW), of Syracuse New York, has lately organized several activities that highlight the benefits of people from different faiths and backgrounds engaging in honest and constructive dialogue.  

In September, IFW hosted a series of “Dinner Dialogues,” bringing people of different faiths together for food, dialogue and trust-building. Seventeen homes took part, each with groups of eight to 10 people, a dinner host and outline for a guided conversation.

“We did a host/facilitator training before and conducted a de-brief with each of them after the dinners,” explained Rev. Gracious Moyo, Director of the Interfaith Initiatives Program for IFW. 

“There is active and deep listening, as people suspend their own judgement and become curious and hear from others.”

IFW has been organizing such dinners for seven years. They are designed to bring together people who don’t often have the opportunity to connect, and to create a culture of understanding leading to better relations in the future.

Hosts worked with a set of 11 questions designed to engage participants.

“Personally, I learned even more about my own faith tradition by seeing it through the lens of others,” Rev. Moyo said. “It was also a time of healing for another woman in our circle. She said she shared things with us she hadn’t shared with her family – she felt comfortable sharing with us because she felt she belonged.

“The dinners are a symbolic act,” he added. “It’s an outward expression of unity among diverse individuals of different traditions. It shows and promotes an awareness of the connectedness of all faiths.”

More than 170 people took part in the recent dinners, featuring a simple vegetarian meal, and many signed up for a subsequent six-session interfaith dialogue.  

Mother and daughterIn October, IFW released a short video “We Are Human,” featuring the voices and experiences of refugees.  It shows the importance of speaking to and learning about people different from you, in order to break down stereotypes. The video is also part of the United Religions Initiative, a global grassroots interfaith network that cultivates peace and justice by engaging people to bridge religious and cultural differences. The video is available on IFW’s web site and will be also used for fundraising and community-building.

In addition, IFW continually engages police and community members in community dialogues, which incorporate Everyday Democracy’s principles of organizing and engagement, and helps organize dialogues at nearby universities and colleges.


November 2, 2017

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