About a dozen people from various religions sit around a table at a home in Sugar Land. One of them picks a card from a stack and reads what is says.
“Some people believe that God has a plan for all things and all people in the world. What do you think about the idea of God’s plan?”
“Only five minutes…”
Everyone in the room will eventually pick a card and be asked a question about their religion. The goal is for people to learn more about each other in order to break down barriers. Lauren Santere runs the Dinner Dialogue for Interfaith Ministries.
“Basically it’s just an opportunity for people to get together and have a conversation with each other where they spend a lot of time listening to one another and kind of experiencing one another’s faith journeys through questions that we provide.”
Houston resident Vijay Pallod is a Hindu. I asked him if the gathering he went to was more like a party or a business meeting.
“We had a great dinner. She cooked very delicious food, so that makes it a party. But it’s business, because everybody shared their experience.”
“My question is: at times people questions their faith or beliefs…”
This year there were about 50 dinners at various homes throughout Houston. Shaheen Chandani a 2005 graduate of the University of Houston says one of her most striking memories of the dinner she attended had absolutely nothing to do with religion. It was observing the owner of the home, a Pakistani man making dinner.
“I see a man in U.S., who’s raised a son here probably — just like my parents raised me here — who is cooking in the kitchen. Do you know how that just breaks all the stereotypes that I have in my head? It’s just amazing it has nothing to do with those questions.”
Santere the organizer says it’s all about opening each other’s eyes.
“One of the great things about doing it in people’s homes that often times it’s more of an intimate setting. People feel a little more friendly with each other. So a lot of those barriers come down that we might have in a public setting.”
Those who have been to a Dinner Dialogue call it an incredible experience. Some like it so much they volunteer to be hosts the next year.