Religious leaders call for tolerance, condemn hatred at interfaith event

Religious leaders call for tolerance, condemn hatred at interfaith event
North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth at the Hillside Islamic Center Thursday. (Photo by John Nugent)

By John Nugent

Religious and civic leaders came together at the Hillside Islamic Center in New Hyde Park last Thursday to express their solidarity in response to the recent mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand and a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Following traditional sunset prayers by members of the Muslim community, Shaykh Ibad Wali, executive director and resident scholar of the Hillside Islamic Center, introduced leaders of several faith-based communities and public officials who each gave a message of hope and unity to an audience of more than a hundred people at the gathering.

Wali welcomed everyone by saying, “I can’t express the joy that I feel in having you all here today.”

He underlined the religious theme of the evening by saying, “Let us come together because we believe in God. The common ground is that we believe in God.”

Clergy representing different faiths gathered in the aftermath of the March 15 massacre in Christchurch, where 50 people died and 50 were injured in attacks at two mosques.  A 28-year-old man identified as a white supremacist has been charged.

“Alone I speak, but together we celebrate,” Mufti Farhan Mughal, director of the Islamic Center of Long Island, added as he spoke of the responsibility of all people to support each other.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran was on hand and said, “We stand in solidarity with the Muslim community. We are united against hate and violence.”

She added that county law enforcement is actively on alert for signs of potential harm or violence directed toward any particular groups of people.

“We have your back,” Curran told the congregation.

Many members of the Jewish faith came to show that they stand together with their Muslim brothers and sisters as they both reflected on the latest tragedies that have befallen their people.

A gunman killed 11 people and wounded seven others Oct. 27 in a shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.  It was the deadliest attack on the nation’s Jewish community.  The accused shooter has pleaded not guilty.

Rabbi Meir Feldman of Temple Beth-El in Great Neck called for a spirit of unity between the Jewish and Muslim communities saying, “Let’s continue to build always, not just in times of tragedy.”

“Out of their misery came words of love and healing,” said Rabbi Todd Chizner of Temple Judea in Manhasset.

From the Lake Success Jewish Center, Rabbi Michael Klayman cited the virtues of love, respect, dignity and tolerance.

“Together we work to repair humanity” he said.

Interviewed after the event concluded, Klayman commented, “I hope we can stand together not only in times of crisis but also in good times.”

Rabbi Randy Sheinberg of Temple Tikvah in New Hyde Park asked everyone to look closely at someone in the room and then posed the question, “What have you seen?” She answered it by saying “the image of God.” Her message was that all of us were created as a reflection of God regardless of race or color. “Hate has no race — love doesn’t either,” she said.

Representing the Sikh community at the Guru Gobind Singh Sikh Center in Plainview, Haraman Singh delivered a message of peace. He asked for a spirit of harmony among all people and spoke of the word fear as an acronym for “False Evidence of Anything Real.”

Rev. Patrick Duggan, senior pastor of the Congregational Church of South Hempstead, brought words of togetherness from the Christian community.

“The spirit of the Lord is in this place,” Duggan stated. “We come together to celebrate our oneness and our love.”

“We are rallying against hate and bigotry. Not in our town, not in our county” were the thoughts of North Hempstead Town Supervisor, Judi Bosworth. “We need to stand together as a family against hate and prejudice.”

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