Members of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago and the Niagara Foundation gathered August 25 at the Saint Nectarios Greek Orthodox Church for an Iftar, the traditional breaking of the all-day fast during the Islamic fast of Ramadan.  Chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis, Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, initiated the dinner as part of ongoing efforts of dialogue toward mutual understanding between the Greek and Turkish communities.
 

Last year, May 4, 2010, Bishop Demetrios received the Fethullah Gulen Award in recognition for his humanitarian efforts from the Niagara Foundation as part of their annual Peace and Dialogue Awards held in Chicago.  The Niagara Foundation, whose membership is predominantly Turkish and Muslim, promotes humanitarian aid, intercultural understanding, and the support of human dignity, tolerance, respect and compassion for the strengthening of civil society.   

The meal was attended by twelve (12) members of the Greek Orthodox and Turkish communities of our region.  Several of the Orthodox Christian participants were natives of Turkey itself, fluent in the Turkish language.  The meal was presented according to Islamic practice (Muslims abstain from all food and drink during daylight hours during the Islamic month of Ramadan).  Following a Christian blessing of the meal and the Islamic maghrib (the fourth of five daily prayers), the meal began with the eating of three dates according to ancient custom. 

This meal was preceded by a tour of the Saint Nectarios Church as well as fellowship time for discussions.  Following the meal, Mr. Dimitri Tobias, pastoral assistant of the parish, offered a brief presentation on Orthodox Christian fasting, and a discussion followed on the cultural and religious similarities of this practice of the two faith traditions.

To close the evening, the Executive Director of the Niagara Foundation, Mr. Sherif Soydan presented a DVD program listing many of the programs offered by the Niagara foundation both here in Chicago and around the world in the areas of humanitarian aid and intercultural dialogue.  The Niagara foundation then donated an exquisite hand crafted and painted plate to the Parish Council President Theodore Pappas and the pastor of St. Nectarios Church, Rev. Fr. Peter Balkas.