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Monday, March 04, 2024

Residents of different religions fast then feast for peace

Christian, Jewish and Muslim Gainesville residents gathered at the United Church of Gainesville to end a day of fasting with a vegetarian potluck Monday.

From sunup up till sundown, religious communities in the Gainesville area joined at least 53 other organized groups around the nation in fasting, according to, a Web site used by groups around the nation to organize the fast. The fast promoted an end to violence specifically in Iraq but also for those among the Abrahamic community.

Dennis Shuman, member and founder of P'nai Or, a Jewish renewal congregation in Gainesville, said he believed the fast to be a strong political movement in our country, even though there is supposed to be a separation of church and state.

"It's showing that the right (Republicans) doesn't have a monopoly on religion," he said.

Shuman also believes the fast to be a great opportunity to network and build bridges between those of different faiths.

Members of UF's Silk Road Club, a group that promotes dialogue within and among cultures, religions and ethnic groups, attended the interfaith gathering.

"The main message of these religions is peace," said Ugur Baslanti, vice president of the club. "If you understand the message within each particular religion, it's easier to establish a community which holds these different religions together."

Baslanti said it's important to have interfaith events.

"There are a lot of things I don't know about Christianity, but if I learn about those religions from the wrong people, I will learn prejudice and hatred," he said.

At 7 p.m., Shuman blew the Shofar, a Jewish horn used to call assembly. Following the sound, Larry Reimer, pastor of United Church of Gainesville, welcomed about 100 guests to the gathering.

After a blessing from Reimer, Rabbi Shaya Isenberg offered a few questions to facilitate conversation among the diners of different faiths.

"The major thing we're doing here is talking to each other," Isenberg said. "We are here all human beings, and we're human beings before we're men and women, and we're human beings before we're Jewish, Christian or Muslim."

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