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Sharing cultural and religious backgrounds through tea
Introduction to the Know Your Neighbor: Multifaith Encounters Program
Know Your Neighbor: Multifaith Encounters (KYN-ME) is a national grassroots interfaith program that is the outgrowth of the Know Your Neighbor coalition of around 15 groups that was launched at the White House in December 2015 to work on policy concerning civil rights.
Founded on American values of religious freedom, pluralism, and inclusion, and motivated by a desire to build peaceful communities at the grassroots level through community engagement, the KYN-ME program was created by Islamic Networks Group (ING) in February 2016 to promote understanding and mutual respect among Americans of diverse religious and ethical traditions.
KYN-ME has grown into a collaborative effort of 75 partners with diverse missions and objectives who work together on campaigns that push back against bigotry and discrimination while promoting civil dialogue across differences, building relationships and peaceful communities, and advancing human rights and justice.
Our nation is made up of a melting pot of various cultures, ethnicities, religious traditions, etc., but one thing many of us hold in common is a shared historical and cultural relationship to tea. Although many Americans may not drink tea regularly, it’s likely that a specific kind of tea is part of their cultural background that has given rise to distinctive stories, traditions, and practices. By starting with tea and how it relates to our cultural identity, we can begin to share our heritage with others and encourage them to share with us.
By using something that we all can relate to, although in different ways, we open up unique paths to dialogue and can create deeper understanding of those of different backgrounds. This event uses tea as a means to bring those of different religious, racial and cultural backgrounds together to engage in dialogue–and enjoy some tea!
What would this event look like?
This event should be a fun-filled tea party where community members come to get to know one another across their differences and to bond over some delicious tea.
We encourage you to take this idea and adapt it to best suit your community, but here are a few aspects that we think are important:
What is required to host the event
• Community groups to partner with
• Time to plan the space and organize volunteers
• Some experience with event planning and interfaith engagement—being aware of faith and cultural sensitives
• An advertising committee to create flyers, circulate the information to groups involved, and promote the event in the community
• Volunteers for set up and clean up of the event
• A facility which can hold enough people and tools for keeping tea warm (tea kettles, a kitchen, etc.)
• Volunteers to bring tea and prepare snacks. Cap the number of attendees from various faith traditions so that the numbers aren’t unbalanced or excessive
• This event must be not for profit—since this guide was created by a nonprofit organization we hope you’ll use it to bring communities together, not for any kind of fundraising initiative.
• An appetite for dialogue!
Before the event
- Host a meeting with community groups involved to pick a date and a theme and decide on the details listed below:
- Find a space that best suits the number of volunteers. If you have ten different types of tea, a large community room with a kitchen space would work well. If you have 100 volunteers you may have to be more creative in the space used—an auditorium, large field, food truck rally area, etc.
- Create a flyer for the event and circulate it within the faith communities involved and the larger communityCreate a method for those wishing to share their tea to register for the event
- Create a method for those wishing to share their tea to register for the event
- Create a strategy for how to host this event so that everyone can taste each tea:
- For large events we’d suggest allowing each tea vendor to have their own booth and invite individuals to browse at will
- For medium sized events we’d suggest arranging attendees at specific tables and having the tea vendors rotate to visit each table in 5 to 10 minute increments
- For small sized events we’d suggest allowing tea vendors to speak in front of the entire audience and have volunteers distribute the tea to individuals
- If you create a different method, be sure to share it with us!
- Invite local tea shops and restaurants to come to showcase and advertise their tea
- Create some kind of thank you for those who participated or a keepsake for those who attended
- Arrange for a photographer to capture the event. (Be sure to send us pictures! Email them to [email protected])
Day of the event
• Set up round tables for event attendees to sit and enjoy their tea and snacks, and discuss questions related to the event
• Arrange for faith leaders to bless the food and discuss the significance of the event
• Designate a facilitator to open the event and explain its schedule and significance
• Have tea vendors provide small amounts of tea initially so that each type is properly tasted
• Be sure to provide cups, snacks, utensils, bowls, plates, napkins, etc.
• Have a cleanup committee
Guidelines for tea vendors
• Have a one-page leaflet prepared for each tea explaining the significance of this tea and its history and listing the ingredients used for those with dietary restrictions
• Be sure to have all supplies needed for your tea! Sugar, honey, milk, etc. and bonus points for small snacks that go well with your tea!
• If possible bring samples of your tea selection for attendees to take home
• Have judges who anonymously rate the teas and award prizes for the winners. Invite community leaders to act as judges.
• Have a panel of faith leaders who discuss the importance of coming together for dialogue and any traditions they may know about the teas presented.
• Encourage volunteers to share their teas and allow participants to leave with different samples.
• Encourage event attendees to dress up according to a certain theme: Sunday best, a period of history, their national or ethnic identity, etc.
• Display different teas and tea related items for sale.
Questions for discussion
• Does tea have any significance in your religious or cultural community?
• What teas do you drink the most frequently? Do they hold any significance to you?
• Pick a tea that you had today and tell us what it reminds you of—a religious holiday, an experience with your family, etc.
• Was there a tea that you had today provided by someone outside of your community group which was similar to or the same as something in your own tradition?
• Was there an item you’d never had before? Describe it and share with your table guests your thoughts on it.