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Interfaith event brings call for harmony

Interfaith event brings call for harmony


WEBSTER GROVES • More than 100 St. Louis-area Christians, Muslims, Jews and people of other faiths gathered Wednesday night to make sense of the atrocities of the Boston Marathon.

They came to grieve for the people of Boston and the victims of the bombings and the violence that followed and to tighten the bonds of their own interfaith friendships. And they came to ask, “Why?”

“Has this been happening throughout history, or is this the evil of our time?” asked Dr. Gul Shah, a Muslim who is a professor of internal medicine.

The event, held at Eden Seminary, featured three speakers — a Jewish rabbi, a Muslim imam and a Christian clergyman. The Interfaith Partnership of Greater St. Louis coordinated the event. A member of the Baha’i community gave the invocation, praying for unity.

A key theme was to urge people not to stereotype and blame Muslims for the atrocities believed to have been committed by two men with extremist tendencies.

Imam Mohamed Hasic said that the perpetrators acted counter to the tenets of Islam. In Islam, he said, “Every life is sacred. It is wrong to take an innocent life.”

Islam says that “no one should take another life except for God or society through due process,” said Hasic, who is the leader of the Medina Masjid, a mosque in south St. Louis. He added that “there is no collective responsibility” for these brutal acts but rather “individual responsibility” by the perpetrators.

Hasic said that being a good neighbor to everyone, regardless of faith, was a way to promote harmony. “We cannot change the past, but we can change the future, (and create) a safer, more secure environment for all of us,” he said, by showing “mutual respect.”

Rabbi Susan Talve, founding rabbi of Central Reform Congregation, said that creating peaceful relationships and understanding was often simply to “show up” for each other in good times and bad, and especially in critical turning points in the community and world.

The Rev. David Greenhaw, president of Eden Theological Seminary, emphasized the significance of building true friendship among people of different faiths.

“I count it a blessing to be here with friends, real friends,” he said. “A blessing is the way it’s supposed to be.”

When a member of the audience asked if the United States had committed some wrong, Greenhaw answered that that was entirely separate from the horrific act that took place in Boston. He said this country had not done anything to warrant the occurences.

Greenhaw said further that “it ought not to be the case that two young men murdered brutally and massacred brutally and horrifically in an unwarranted and cruel way human beings, sisters and brothers, people just like us.”

“But ... it would be really wrong if we drew the horrible conclusion that they represent a religious community,” he added.

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Margaret S. Gillerman is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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