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Published On:07 September 2011
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Three Miami-area congregations — Catholic, Jewish, Muslim — to come together to commemorate 9/11

By Tim Padgett

Some positive things came out of a Gainesville preacher’s widely reported burning of a Koran this year. Gainesville, which roundly rejected his bigotry, showed the world the decent, tolerant city it is.

Here in Miami, my own coverage led me to a South Miami-Dade mosque, Al-Ihsaan, whose Gandhi-esque answer to the preacher’s affront was not to lash out but to hand out the Muslim holy book: For every Koran he burned, the mosque would give 114 of them (the Koran has 114 chapters) to the community. Al-Ihsaan’s imam, Tarek Chebbi, asked me to present one to the Rev. Luis Perez, the pastor of Holy Rosary-St. Richard, the Catholic church I attend in Palmetto Bay.

What happened next impressed me as a journalist and heartened me as a Miamian.

Father Perez enthusiastically embraced Imam Chebbi’s invitation of an interfaith partnership, as did Rabbi Mark Kram of a nearby Reconstructionist Jewish temple, Beth Or. Members of all three congregations responded just as positively, and Rabbi Kram made a splendid suggestion: They could attend each other’s services next weekend to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11. This coming Friday, Catholic and Jewish congregants will be guests at afternoon prayer at Al-Ihsaan; that evening, Catholics and Muslims will go to Shabbat service at Beth Or; and on Sunday, Muslims and Jews will attend a Holy Rosary-St. Richard mass.

It’s a simple plan — but it’s a salient antidote to the “clash of civilizations” rhetoric that’s bound to pollute the national air that weekend. Talking heads of all religious and political stripes will try to turn a solemn period of outreach into divisive, cable-news noise about issues like a proposed Muslim community center near Ground Zero. What congregations like these three in Miami are doing and saying — that hate-mongers do not represent their religions — is one of the best ways to pay tribute to the 9/11 victims, and I’m hoping other faith communities in South Florida and the United States come to the same conclusion this week.

Judeo-Christian fellowship is fairly common in America. (Beth Or also has an interfaith association with Christ the King Lutheran Church in Pinecrest.) But Judeo-Christian-Muslim fellowship is fairly rare — which is sad, given the spiritual roots Judaism and Christianity share with Islam. As Rabbi Kram, who is also president of the Rabbinical Association of Miami, points out, “We’re all children of Abraham.” In fact, Abraham’s submission to God, a central theme of the Torah and the Old Testament, is the focus of one of Islam’s most important holy days, Eid al-Adha.

The Koran, meanwhile, reverently mentions Jesus and the Virgin Mary almost 100 times. And western civilization owes a debt to medieval Muslim thinkers like Ibn Rushd for keeping alive classical texts, like Aristotle’s, that inspired medieval Christian thinkers like Thomas Aquinas — and helped nurture the European Renaissance.

“We need to better appreciate how interconnected our traditions are,” says Imam Chebbi, who is also a board member of the Islamic School of Miami.

One of the most meaningful commonalities is the core greeting of each faith: “Peace.” “Shalom” in the Hebrew of Judaism, “Salaam” in the Arabic of Islam, and “Pax vobiscum” (peace be with you) in the Latin of early Christianity.

“It makes you realize, on a day as significant as 9/11, that people of other faiths are still brothers and sisters in faith,” says Father Perez, who navigated the recent merger of the Holy Rosary and St. Richard parishes for the Archdiocese of Miami, whose archbishop, Thomas Wenski, will conduct a special 9/11 memorial mass next Sunday. South Florida has its own unfortunate connections to 9/11, since many of the hijackers covertly trained here. But that, and the fact that Miami remains a frustratingly fragmented community, is all the more reason we should spend the 9/11 weekend opening our churches, synagogues and mosques (and Hindu, Buddhist and pagan temples) to our “other” brothers and sisters.

The Islamic terrorists of 9/11 — or Christian terrorists like Anders Behring Breivik, or Jewish terrorists like Baruch Goldstein — didn’t just want to kill human beings. They hoped to destroy human ties. What congregations like Al-Ihsaan, Holy Rosary-St. Richard and Beth Or want to prove is: the terrorists lost.

(Courtesy: Miami Herald)

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on September 07, 2011. Filed under , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

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