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ING’s Fall 2013 Interfaith Service Days
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Address: 588 Brown Rd. Fremont, CA
Time: 4:00-8:00 pm
Service: Prepare and serve dinner to shelter guests
Outcomes: Participants cooked and served dinner and dessert for 65 guests.
ING’s third Interfaith Service Day took place at Sunrise Village in Fremont on Wednesday, October 30th from 4:00-8:00 pm. Sunrise Village is an emergency shelter in Fremont that is a part of the larger organization, Abode Services. The mission of Abode Services is to “end homelessness by assisting low-income, un-housed people, including those with special needs, to secure stable, supportive housing, and to be advocates for the removal of the causes of homelessness.” Sunrise Village offers housing, meals, and social services such as psychological counseling, child care, play and library areas for families all of which help provide a sense of stability for their residents.
A group of interfaith volunteers prepared and served dinner for the residents at Sunrise Village and some joined them for dinner. We cooked and served chicken, pasta, green beans, salad and served dessert for about 65 residents, single adults as well as families. As some of us ate with the residents, we were able to hear their experiences first hand to better be able to connect some of the systemic problems and difficulties to the people who live them. After the meal was finished, the volunteers gathered to engage in a conversation about the interfaith efforts in regards to homelessness, hunger and food waste in America. We also talked about the unique opportunities religious communities and interfaith groups can do to contribute to the solution.
Discussion questions and responses:
Topic: We discussed interfaith efforts to combat hunger and prevent waste in America. This raised the following questions:
1. What unique contributions can faith-based communities make to discussion and action on hunger and homelessness? What resources do our traditions bring to these questions?
- Each of our religions teach us about caring for one another especially those who are less fortunate.
- Look to the examples of Muhammad and Jesus- these are core values in Islam and Christianity.
- In addition to the social ethics of caring for others, religious communities have a moral voice. These are ideas that are rooted in our traditions and our theologies. We must link these moral teachings to active compassion in the world.
- There is an idea in the United State that poor people have done something to deserve the situation they are in. This stems from the notion of “The American Dream,” that anyone can better their socioeconomic status if they work hard enough. Therefore, people who are poor are not working hard enough and are lazy because there are “plenty of opportunities out there.” This ideology of “justified homelessness” is really harmful because it blocks us from seeing the reality and severity of the situation.
- The bigger question is how to make these moral and religious ideas and theologies that we learn about growing up a living reality and practice.
2. What are our communities (churches, synagogues, mosques) doing about these issues? What has been the outcome or success?
- One of the bigger questions that were asked as we discussed what our local communities are doing is: What is the role of the government in these situations as well as how do they (if they) should work with faith based communities?
- Keeping in mind the separation of church and state, what are the boundaries and responsibilities of both the government and local faith based organizations and efforts?
- It is both and both groups need to be a part of the immediate solution as well as the larger picture systemic issues.
- Some of the local programs include:
- Churches collecting food as a part of the worship service and then donating it to local organizations.
- LEAF program in Fremont: teaching people about growing their own food and being more environmentally friendly and conscious about their consumption and waste. They are helping people develop home as well as community gardens.
- At one Fremont Church, they have a food exchange program where the extra food from people’s home gardens are brought and people who have the means can provide a donation for the food they take and those who cannot can still get food.
- ICNA Abraham’s Day serves food to homeless.
- SBIA Day of Dignity: Server 400-500 homeless people in the area by giving out clothes, hygiene packs, other basic necessities and food.
- SBIA has started providing food on a weekly basis.
- Rahima Foundation: Local food distribution to needy people and shelters.
3. What contributions can faith-based communities make to remedy the social and economic structures that help create hunger and homelessness?
- As much as the efforts to combat the primary/first levels of poverty, it is not enough to just respond by helping in shelters, donating food and money. There are bigger systemic and structural problems that need to be addressed by working for policy changes.
- Faith-based organizations that have a community of people who are morally connected to the idea of serving the less fortunate can also be a place to inform their congregations about impacting policy. It’s a part of the moral responsibility of faith communities.