Common thread between all people explored at inter-faith meeting

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The Rev. Dr. William Danaher, rector of Christ Church Cranbrook, Bloomfield Hills.

In a sprawling mosque in the center of Dearborn, a mix of clergy and lay people – Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and Jews – met to show how much everyone has in common.

Even if much of the world sees the differences before the similarities.

“What we share in common is far greater than what separates us,” said Zenna Elhasan, a board member of the Islamic Center of America. “It’s not enough to speak of love, and not love others…No one has the right to cancel a group of others out of existence. It’s not enough to say, ‘I love you, Lord’ by your lips (but not) by your actions.”

With much of the political climate fueled by a reaction to anti-Western (or pro-ISIS) attacks around the world, there’s a growing sentiment to limit or cease the placement of all refugees from regions seen as Muslim strongholds. That includes Syrians, whose efforts to flee mounting turmoil in their country have increased and drawn the attention
of the world lately. Despite statistics that show otherwise, many see waves of Syrians as being a serious threat in both Europe and the United States.

“We need to make it clear, it’s not a crime to be pro-Muslim,” Elhasan said. “I’m not a terrorist. I’m not a bad person.

“Muslims are like everyone else.”

That was the genesis for ‘2016: A Year of Faith and Peace,’ which is being organized by the Inter-Faith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit. This inter-faith coalition seeks to bring together members of all faiths to learn more about each other. Starting
with a March 22 program and Judaism at Temple Israel and ending June 8 with a Christianity program hosted by Christ Church Cranbrook, Bloomfield Hills, four different houses of worship will open with a meal, then follow with a series of lectures and workshop experiences. It will end with a worship service.

The initial meeting, which took place in late December, offered an opportunity for representatives of different faiths to express their desire to learn more about each other, plus to take a stand against forces looking to diminish various ethnic groups – in this instance, to deflect criticism towards the Muslim community.

“We need to stand up against fear, hatred and violence,” said the Rev. Fran Hayes, pastor of Littlefield Presbyterian Church, Dearborn.

The Rev. Dr. William Danaher, rector for Christ Church Cranbrook, Bloomfield Hills and also chair of the diocese’s newly-formed Interfaith and Ecumenical Relations Taskforce, read a message from Bishop Wendell Gibbs Jr. and offered his own thoughts on the year-long program.

He is among several Episcopal clergy and friends who attended the event.

“Now is not the time to step away from the values which have served us so well,” Bishop Gibbs’s statement said. “The diversity of our villages, towns and communities makes us stronger, not weaker.

“Now is not the time to forget the love, compassion and empathy that lies at the core of our different religious traditions. These are the ties which bind us to one another and are the only source of God’s justice and peace.”

The InterFaith Leadership Council was created on Sept. 12, 2001, when clergy and civic leaders met to plan a joint prayer service in response to the terror attacks in the United States.

To learn more about the Inter-Faith Leadership Council, go online to www.detroitinterfaithcouncil.com. Also, when referencing the program through social media, remember to use the hashtag #YearOfFaithAndPeace.

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