Potomac: Working Together Across Faiths

Potomac: Working Together Across Faiths

Capital Area Interfaith Friends sponsors Service Day for youths of all faiths.

Members of Capital Area Interfaith Friends build a sukkah (shelter) for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

Members of Capital Area Interfaith Friends build a sukkah (shelter) for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Photo Contributed


Parents and children, members of Capital Area Interfaith Friends, complete a quiz after learning about Iftar. Afterwards, the children helped plan more interfaith events.

Four years ago, Dominique and Mike Rychlik and their three children were included in a dinner and movie night on Eid al-Fitr, which celebrates the end of the Ramadan fast. A diverse group of friends of their family and school friends of their children attended, and it was held at the home of a Muslim friend. The purpose was to discuss founding an interfaith group for youth — a passion of the Rychliks because they had previously been involved in interfaith groups.

During the evening, a discussion centered on the meaning of Ramadan, the breaking of the fast as well as on the commonalities of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim religions. Together the group came to an understanding that all religions believe in helping others through service and making the world a better place for all. The children ate together as did the parents – and at the end of the evening, the enthusiasm of the youth had led to the planning of three more activities, the beginning of the Capital Area Interfaith Friends (CAIF), and a desire to explore and learn about one another’s religions and cultures.


The Hunger Banquet

CAIF member Amal Haque said, “I never realized how closely related our world faiths are. They all share a basic meaning of doing good for oneself and those who surround them. This became very apparent when we began attending events related to each other’s faiths. I would never classify my younger self as intolerant, but my level of understanding and appreciation for other faiths is unparalleled to whatever opinions or prejudices I may have had before becoming a member of CAIF.”

CAIF’s mission is: “We strive to be ‘one drop in the ocean’ as Mother Theresa preached, to be part of something bigger than just us alone. We stand to celebrate all cultures and people. We are CAIF: Capital Area Interfaith Friends. We discuss our beliefs and devote our time to service projects that make a difference.”


The 2014 Capital Area Interfaith Friends planning meeting

One of the many service projects sponsored by CAIF is an upcoming Service Day for youth and youth groups of all faiths. On Sunday, May 31 from 1:30 - 4:30 p.m., the group will meet at the Washington Hebrew Congregation’s Julia Bindeman Suburban Center, 11810 Falls Road, Potomac to pack food for the hungry while making new friends. There will also be an opportunity to eat together and gain information about other service projects CAIF is working on and how to join. Student Services learning hours will be awarded and all youth and youth groups are invited to attend.

One of the first projects that CAIF undertook was to attend the 911 Unity Walk in D.C. and they participate every year. Daniel Weber, who is a freshman at Whitman High School said, “I believe the Unity Walk is the most interesting event in which I have participated.” He also enjoys CAIF because “I really enjoy learning about all the various religions and cultures while visiting their respective houses of worship. I also enjoy the food prepared by people of different cultures.”


Bone making and the laying of 1 million bones on the National Mall were part of genocide awareness events in which Capital Area Interfaith Friends participated.

CAIF also became involved in the “One Million Bones” project to raise awareness of genocide and mass atrocities in places like Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and Burma. The group created hand-crafted bones and also served as section leaders, helping to place the bones on the National Mall in Washington D.C. — covering the entire Mall and symbolizing how many people have been victims of genocide.

Another group project is to volunteer monthly at the Calvary Women’s Shelter in D.C., serving food and eating with the homeless women. They also attended the Hindu Holi Festival of Colors at the Hare Krishna Temple on Oaklyn Drive in Potomac, partnered with Foundry Methodist Church’s Annual Day of Service, attended “Celebrating Harmony” and Heartbeat Jerusalem awareness concerts and have accomplished other projects.

Hamzah Khan, one of the co-leaders of CAIF, said, “One of the most meaningful aspects of being in CAIF is finding a sense of unity in our great diversity. It’s a melting pot of cultures, religions and experiences and I feel at home whether I’m learning about Hanukah from a Jewish member or visiting Holi festivities with other members. Fatima Durrani said, “Realizing that it’s the youth shoulders that the future stands on and that preparing them now to be interfaith leaders of the future is my service to the world. It puts me at ease to realize that we share common values, and it has been wonderful making friends who value faith, even if it is a completely different one from the faith I practice.”

CAIF explains its purpose in its literature: “As our world becomes increasingly divided, it is more important than ever that youth come together as a community to embrace the diversity and faiths of others. As the generation of tomorrow, it is of utmost importance that we start today to tell the world that friendship, trust and respect can triumph over bigotry and intolerance. We, the Capital Area Interfaith Friends, stand together and say with one voice that by performing acts of charity, we can change the world, one community at a time.”

To sign up for the Service Day, RSVP to www.capitalareainterfaithfriends@yahoo.com or call 301-500-4410. To learn more about CAIF, visit www.Capitalareainterfaithfriends.org.