Having lived in Pakistan, France, and Canada, Tasneem Sultan, co-founder and President of La Convivencia, and her family have fostered deep understanding and importance of the urgent need for cross-cultural and inter-religious dialogue. While living in the deep South city of Huntsville, Alabama, Tasneem realized that despite the growing diversity in the community, some people lacked basic knowledge of different faiths and cultures including her own. She recognized the mistrust and distrust subtly present in the community because of this knowledge barrier. To educate the community and partake in spreading interfaith and cultural knowledge, Tasneem became an active member of Huntsville Interfaith Mission Services and other organizations with the goals of bringing communities together. After relocating to West Windsor, she continued her mission and became involved in many organizations in the area. In 2015, while conducting a National History Day project, Tasneem’s son Bilal learned about the medieval period (711-1492 AD) in Spain when people of many different faiths co-existed and blossomed into an exemplary society, one resembling the fundamentals of American culture. Inspired by that learning, Bilal and his older brother Zain, with Tasneem’s support, pursued the establishment of a New Jersey-based non-profit organization, La Convivencia. Influenced by Tasneem and the boys’ ideas, the organization started up and now strives to honor and celebrate the differences and the shared values of our pluralistic community based on the principles of acceptance, trust, and mutual respect. With the constant work of the family and all those who have become involved, the organization aims to create cross-cultural and inter-religious dialogue that will help people understand each other’s struggles and build sustainable relationship among diverse citizenry. Aside from annual conferences and other multifaith events, La Convivencia organizes and encourages community service. The organization is based on the principles of going beyond self and volunteer work is crucial to La Convivencia’s mission of creating an inclusive society. The organization is continuously working to foster strong relationships among Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, Bahais, and Atheists through dialogue, civic & social justice engagement and engaging in community service. In addition, it is actively pursuing the fight to break down stereotypes, hate and prejudice present in the modern world. Within the past two years, it has already had an impact on members of the community. Its events and gatherings have proven that through interaction between people of diverse backgrounds and through civic engagement and community service, people’s lives are changed and that they put that change into action. The Sultan family knows they must do their part to change the attitudes as ignorance is the root cause of hate and education is the solution. Come join us and participate in honoring and celebrating the diversity of our perspectives, and the commonality of being alive, as we create thriving communities — a thriving humanity — for all.
A Research Project on "Convivencia" Done by Bilal Sultan. Please follow the link to have a glimpse of Medieval Islamic Spain (711-1492). http://8147712.weebly.com/