Days of Prayer - Building Inter-religious Bridges


Today is the National Day of Prayer. I will be attending this evening the event sponsored by the Troy-area Interfaith Group. It will be an interfaith affair and will display the diverse ethnic and religious makeup of the community in which I live. I don't have a speaking part tonight, at least not yet. This event, now in its fourteenth or fifteenth year (if count semi-correctly), was established because an existing National Day of Prayer event was declared to be "Judeo-Christian" and thus persons outside that grouping were not welcome. Interestingly, the person (a Hindu woman who is now a close friend) who asked to pray at that event,setting this group in motion, now represents the community in the Michigan Legislature. It should be a good evening.

It is also Yom HaShoah, the day of remebrance of the Shoah or Holocaust that took millions of lives, pre-eminently Jewish, under the Nazi regime. The message of this day is -- "Never Forget." We should never forget, especially in light of the rising-tide of anti-Semitism in our country and world. 

Last evening I attended an interfaith dinner sponsored by the Muslim Unity Center, a mosque located in Bloomfield Hills. It was the third year I've attended this dinner. The food, fellowship, and program is always quite good. Such was the case last night. This Muslim community is very intentional about reaching out to the community and building bridges of friendship. Every thing was delightful, and the speaker, Dr. Rudolph Bilal Ware, was outstanding. He spoke of the connection between African American Muslims, descendants of slaves, whose origins can be traced to thriving Muslim communities in West Africa. I must say it was insightful. 

On May 22nd, my congregation will be co-hosting for the fourth year in a row an Iftar Dinner (the dinner that brings the Ramadan fast to a close) with the Turkish American Society of Michigan. It too is designed to build friendships across religious lines.

I share all of this in the context of reports of deadly violence against religious communities. Just in the past few weeks we have witnessed the attack on mosques in New Zealand, killing approximately fifty people. Then there was the bombing of churches in Sri Lanka (along with hotels) that killed over 300. Finally there was the attack on a synagogue in California that left one dead and three wounded. We know of other attacks, including arson attacks against black churches in the United States. Additionally, I am visited regularly by an Iraqi Christian reminding me of the plight of the Christians of Iraq, a community that has largely fled its home regions. 

So, here we are, on a day that is supposed to call us to prayer. Here is my prayer. I pray that we will join together in building bridges of friendship between communities. Take the opportunity to get to know your Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Baha'i neighbor. Say no to violence against persons of other religious faiths. That a person believes differently from you doesn't mean they are any less human. In fact, in most ways we're fairly similar. So, by all means take the opportunity to join in events like last night's dinner, tonight's celebration, and other similar events. It is good for the world in which we live.   

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