Rockland Interfaith Symposium: Diversity key in wake of hate crimes

Minister Wesley King hugs Imam Syed Ali after the Interfaith Symposium held at Rockland Community College March 20, 2019. Peter Carr/The Journal News

RAMAPO – Rockland officials and faith leaders gathered Wednesday to address rising divisiveness between communities in the wake of the recent shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Hate crimes have been on the rise, and with high profile shootings at mosques, synagogues and churches, the county has recommitted itself to addressing the issue, Human Rights Commissioner Constance Frazier said Wednesday at the second annual Rockland County Interfaith Symposium at Rockland Community College.

Much of the dialogue at the symposium was centered on celebrating diversity.

Keynote speaker the Rev. Brandon McLauchlin emphasized that people are all the same despite their differences.

“All of us have differences,” he said. “All of us have things that we add to the world but at the end of the day … we’re all one group together. We’re all human.”

He said it was important to remember that when defending beliefs and principles.

“We get so caught up in defending what we believe, that we forget to actually live what we believe,” McLauchlin said.

Read the full article here.

Interfaith Shabbat brings Jews, Muslims together

Media Credit: Alexandra Wimley/Post-Gazette

Around 7:30 Friday night at Temple Sinai in Squirrel Hill, a visitor standing in the hallway could hear the braided sounds of a Muslim imam chanting Arabic prayer in one room and Jewish clergy leading Shabbat worship songs in the nearby sanctuary to guitar accompaniment.

They had gathered under one roof for the third annual interfaith Shabbat dinner and service, hosted by Temple Sinai with guests from the nearby Islamic Center of Pittsburgh in Oakland.

The event, launched here in 2017 in the wake of a U.S. travel ban targeted at several majority-Muslim countries, had long been scheduled for this Friday night.

But it took on a much more poignant significance coming one week after a gunman killed 50 worshipers at two New Zealand mosques.

That in turn recalled the terror of the Oct. 27, 2018 killings of 11 worshipers from three Jewish congregations at the Tree of Life / Or L’Simcha synagogue in Squirrel Hill. In the wake of that anti-Semitic massacre, local Muslims and other faith groups rallied to the support of the Jewish community.

On Friday afternoon, in fact, just hours before the sundown start of the Jewish worship services, many Jews and others had attended the main weekly prayer service at the Islamic Center in a similar demonstration of solidarity.

“It’s really beautiful,” said Mohammad Sajjad, executive director of the Islamic Center. “It just reaffirms people in the Pittsburgh community, especially in the interfaith community, they’ve got each other’s backs.”

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Pope’s meeting with Moroccan king to boost interfaith dialogue

Media Credit:

The theme of inter-religious dialogue has risen to the fore as Pope Francis prepares to meet King Mohammed VI during his trip to Morocco from March 30-31.

High hopes are expected of their summit as the Moroccan king also holds the religious title of Commander of the Faithful in this predominantly Sunni Muslim African nation of 36 million people, The North Africa Post reports.

The country has won widespread praise, including from the Catholic Church in the capital Rabat, for balancing the interests and values of moderate Islam with calls for greater understanding between Muslims, Jews and Christians.

[The] highlight of his visit is expected to take place at Hassan mosque, where the pope is due to directly address the public before he honors the graves of two former kings with a moment of silent contemplation.

The monarch expressed Morocco’s determination to continue to work with the pope on the consecration of the values of coexistence, communication, and dialogue between different people and civilizations. The King said that their mutual goal is to contribute to the construction of a better future to ensure the principles of harmony, peace, sustainability, and security (Morocco World News).

Read the full article here.

Interfaith Outreach After The New Zealand Attack

People on Tuesday stand next to floral tributes placed across the road from the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, where dozens of worshippers were gunned down last week.
Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images

After the New Zealand attack, there is a surge of interfaith support for U.S. Muslims. Churches, synagogues and other houses of worship are trying to help mosque-goers feel less afraid.

Below are excerpts from the transcript from NPR radio station:

“We’ve all experienced the evil of hate. We pray that we be strong together and that all of us will work together to remove all of that hate…”

“Standing with each other in moments like this is vital, says Ginna Green of Bend the Arc, a progressive Jewish advocacy group.”

“The common thread that connects these tragedies, such as the Pittsburgh shooting on October 27, is a hateful, destructive, violent white nationalist ideology that targets all of us. In this moment, we are not safe unless we’re together.

And at a time when American Muslims say they feel vulnerable, Rami Nashashibi, a Muslim community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, says these alliances aren’t just comforting.

Our strength, our resilience and, in many ways, even our survival depends on those types of alliances in this country and beyond.

This was a tragedy, he says, but not a surprise. Hate crimes are on the rise. Other faith and community groups put out messages of support. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America asked people to reach out to Muslim neighbors. The president of the American Atheists urged people to consider whether their own actions contributed to the climate that allowed the New Zealand attack. The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ civil rights group, called on the president to stop fearmongering.

And at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, an interfaith vigil of more than 200 people gathered Saturday. Elected officials, rabbis, pastors and poets were among those who mourned the killings in New Zealand. But even that was interrupted by reports of an active shooter. People fled the vigil, leaving behind shoes and backpacks. It turned out it was apparently just balloons popping nearby on campus. But the fear was real.

Read the full article here.

New Zealand Jews Officially in Solidarity


Synagogue, credit BusyHomeschoolDays

For the first time in history, New Zealand’s synagogues will be closed this coming Shabbat following the massacre of muslims in Christchurch.

The Jewish Agency and New Zealand Jewish Council, according to the Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog, do this as an act of solidarity with the bereaved families.

Story in Jerusalem Post

Prayers for Victims, for Families, for Peace

IRFWP and our worldwide family of spiritual leaders from Islam, Christianity, and all religions extend urgent and deepest prayers for our Muslim brothers and sisters of Christchurch, for all families, friends and all  affected by our tragic loss. We pray for peace among all people of faith, and among all affected lands, peoples, and cultures.

Young man praying in Mosque, image by Samer Chidiak

Prayers, image by congerdesign

Pope Francis meets with LDS President Nelson in the Vatican

The Vatican
President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican in Rome, Italy, on Saturday, March 9, 2019.

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church and President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints met today at the Vatican in the first-ever face-to-face discussion between the heads of the two global churches.

“The differences in doctrine are real and they’re important,” President Nelson said afterward as he stood just outside St. Peter’s Square, “but they’re not nearly as important as the things we have in common — our concern for human suffering, the importance of religious liberty for all of society, and the importance of building bridges of friendship instead of building walls of segregation.”

The two world religious leaders shared a belief that faith in God brings morality and stability to society.

“If we have a godless society, we have a rudderless ship,” President Nelson said.

The pope extended the invitation for a private audience to the Latter-day Saint leader in conjunction with President Nelson’s trip this weekend to Italy, where he will dedicate the history-making new Rome Italy Temple.

Read the entire article in Deseret News 

Pope denounces ‘depraved’ antisemitism and urges dialogue

From Miami Herald. No caption. No credits

Pope Francis denounced the “depraved hatred” behind a wave of anti-Semitic attacks in parts of the world and said interfaith dialogue can help counter it.

Francis met Friday with a delegation of the American Jewish Committee and praised their longstanding good relations.

He lamented that their meeting was taking place amid the spread of a “climate of wickedness and fury, in which an excessive and depraved hatred is taking root.”

And he warned that for Christians, any form of anti-Semitism is “a rejection of one’s own origins, a complete contradiction.”

Read the entire Miami Herald article here