Friday, November 11, 2005

Peace And Tolerance Stressed At Bethesda Missionary Program

From: firdaus mubarik
Date: Thu, 10 Nov 2005 19:25:08 -0800
Subject: Peace And Tolerance Stressed At Bethesda Missionary Program

Peace And Tolerance Stressed At Bethesda Missionary Program
by Nick Briano, Chronicle Correspondent

Religious leaders from various faiths collaborated on Sunday in Jamaica in the area's first interfaith gathering to promote peace and tolerance throughout the world by providing different religious outlooks while showing
the many similarities.

The event, held at the Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church on Jamaica Avenue, included Islamic, Jewish, Christian and Sikh representatives addressing the audience on their faith's interpretation and response to peace and tolerance.

The moderator, Brother Ali Murtaza of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, believes an event like this is just the beginning of creating widespread public awareness and acceptance of other religions.

"The purpose of our organization is to create religious unity," Murtaza said. "By displaying our common beliefs rather than differences, we can achieve harmony."

The Queens branch of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, co-sponsor of the event, is just one of 62 branches that are spread across the country, which believes that the "melting pot" of America is what inspires their organization. Their motto of "love for all and hatred for none," seeks to unify all religions as one working together in harmony.

"The purpose of this event is to leave here knowing more about one another," said Reverend Charles Norris, senior pastor of the Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church. "We are here to hear different religions' perspective on the issues of peace and tolerance."

He added that this is a momentous occasion because it is the first time Christian and Muslim groups have collaborated for this type of event in which they aim to emphasize their common traits by minimizing their
disagreements. One common thread throughout the event was that all four religious representatives believe that peace and tolerance are achievable if people learn to accept one another for who they are.

The first speaker, Master Mohinder Singh, represented the Sikh perspective and said that society has yet to take advantage of religion's full potential and influence. The Sikh faith believes that God sent us all down to Earth as
humans and anyone who believes one human is more powerful than another is simply superstitious.

"God created us all equal," Mohinder said. "When it comes to achieving peace we must use the powers of religion."

Rabbi Valerie Lieber of Temple Israel of Jamaica, who represented the Jewish faith, added to what Singh said.

"In order to love one another we must accept God's other creations," Lieber said.

Lieber explained that we must acknowledge the fact that there is just one God and he created all of us despite what religion we may belong to. She continued to point out we can't just wait for peace to come to us. We must
go out and pursue it relentlessly.

Lieber, also a board member of "Jews for Racial and Economic Justice," touched on the tolerance issue saying that there's an ethical solution to everything and we must all tear down the ethnic and religious barriers to work together as a national community.

She pointed out that the organization she belongs to has actively worked with the NAACP and other social equality groups as a sign of empathy to others and to set an example of how we can all work together for a positive cause. She also commented on why the world has yet to develop a sense of unity throughout the various religions.

"Unfortunately, people twist the core beliefs of many faiths and misinterpret them," she said. "It is a very common problem that people don't always follow their respective books of God the way they're intended."

The service concluded with Brother Munir Hamid, vice president of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, providing light on the Muslim perspective of peace and tolerance.

He said all humans must develop a relationship with God no matter what may happen on Earth, a spiritual connection is the key to peace and tolerance of others. The Islamic religion has been misinterpreted and labeled by the actions society sees through the media, Hamid said.

"Religion acts as a guide to your creator," he said. "When we develop a relationship with God, a light shines inside us and we could then have an everlasting influence on others."[]


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