Daisy Kahn is the Executive Director for the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA).  She is also the wife of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.  Ms. Kahn and her husband are leading organizers of the Cordoba Initiative at Park51.  This week it was my pleasure to be one of a small group invited to lunch and conversation with Ms. Kahn.

The lunch itself was simple: pizza.  That’s right, just pizza.  But it wasn’t the food that was the draw; it was the ability to converse with a person that is currently at the middle of the debate regarding religious freedom in this country.  How could I, a Pagan, not go? This gathering was intimate with only 20 or so people in the room.  And what people they were: Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Pagan, Muslim, and probably faiths traditions that I’m not aware of.  Old, young, middle-aged; student, chaplain, professor, visitor, staff; those who watched 9/11 from afar as well as some who were very personally affected by the attack – all had their perspectives and lives changed that day.  The cross-section of American culture was amazing.  But it seemed that everyone came together for one single purpose: to talk, to listen, and to be open to understanding.

What was said will remain between the participants of the lunch.  There were no cameras, recordings or media allowed.  An environment of open, candid discussion was created with trust among the participants a key component.  What I will say is that we discussed a wide range of topics.  What is an interfaith or interreligious dialogue was the beginning point. From there we broached the subject of anger in America; anger against certain groups and what it is based in.  (Fear of the unknown is my opinion, that and feeling a loss of control in our lives.)  We talked about the Cordoba Initiative/Park51 Center and what steps have been taken to make it inclusive – steps that have been taken from the beginning of the project.  Inclusion and sensitivity towards the 9/11 families in the planning of the project was also brought up.  The discussion in all areas was just what it was intended to be – a conversation.  For me the conversation reaffirmed that most people just want to do good.

At the end of the lunch I smiled, we all came together to listen to one woman, Daisy Kahn, talk.  What had happened was very different.  A conversation that allowed questions, thoughts, opinions and maybe an answer or two to be brought forward had taken place.  No, not what I expected but definitely what I was hoping for.  Start your own conversation.  You never know what new place of understanding it will take you to.