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Faithful find unity in shattered world

of the Journal Sentinel staff
Last Updated: Sept. 12, 2001

Drawn by a common quest for healing, justice and peace, local leaders of many of the world's great religious traditions shared prayers Wednesday with about 275 people during a noon interfaith service in Milwaukee's Central United Methodist Church.

Nineteen speakers expressed themselves in different ways, and sometimes in different languages.

But as the words resonated within the concrete and wood sanctuary, they pulled the equally diverse crowd closer together with the hope that a better America will emerge from the nightmare of terrorist attack.

"It's been very dramatic and very uplifting, because this is the most (diverse) interfaith gathering we've ever had," the Rev. Thelma Smith, chairwoman of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee and district superintendent for the United Methodist Church, said in an interview.

"And so, I see us being able to work in community and know that we are part of a larger fabric and that God has created us all."

Bishop Peter Rogness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Greater Milwaukee Synod set a tone with a biblical quotation: Let us love one another because love is from God.

"Our theologies and our traditions are many, and our religious writings are varied, but the common thread that runs through them all is the sublime command that we have regarding care for one another in the human family," Rogness said.

Other speakers were mainline Christians, Jews, Muslims, a Sikh, a Buddhist, a Baha'i, a Hindu and a Quaker. Examples:

Bishop Medardo Gomez, who was visiting from the Lutheran Synod of El Salvador - "We are united in your pain," he said.

Rabbi Dena Feingold of Kenosha, president of the Wisconsin Council of Rabbis and sister of U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold - "At a time of pain, and terror, and unanswered questions, one thing that unites all of us, of all faiths, is a prayer for peace," she said as she incorporated a traditional Jewish prayer in her comments.

"Grant us peace, your most precious gift, oh eternal source of peace. And give us the will to proclaim its message to all the peoples of the Earth. Bless our country, that it may always be a stronghold of peace and its advocate among the nations. . . . "

Ahmed Quereshi, an officer of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee - "The Islamic Society of Milwaukee and all major Muslim organizations in this country have completely and utterly condemned the barbaric, heinous acts of yesterday. . . .

"In our holy Qur'an, God tells us that the slaying of one innocent person is as though one slew all of humanity, and the saving of one innocent person is as if one saved all of humanity. I would like to offer a solemn prayer for the victims, their families, their communities and the country."

The Rev. Archie Ivy of Milwaukee's New Hope Baptist Church, president of Milwaukee Innercity Congregations Allied for Hope - "Why do bad things happen to good people? One thing it has done is brought us together. . . . Maybe God is trying to bring us together as a true United States of America."

The Rev. Tonen O'Connor of the Milwaukee Zen Center - "The Buddha perceived, not that we could be one, but that we are one. In our essence, we are all the same, despite our differences in appearance, race, age, condition, ideology. The Buddha also knew that to live this oneness would take great compassion. So this is a Buddhist chant for a compassionate heart in the face of hatred and death."

©Copyright 2001, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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