A faith of unity brings people together
By JOSEPH DEE
LAWRENCE -- About 100 people gathered at the Rider University Chapel last night for an interfaith devotional service sponsored by Mercer County spiritual assemblies of the Baha'i Faith.
A calm and soothing atmosphere was created by participants who took turns playing musical instruments, including a harp, and reading passages or prayers from Hindu, Christian, Islamic and Judaic texts.
Tuesday's terrorist bombings were acknowledged by numerous speakers, including Lawrence Mayor Pam Mount. "It's important at times like this one to reach out to one another. This will be a defining moment for us, for our way of life and for our love of diversity. The rubble (of the World Trade Center towers) will be a foundation for building a community of love."
The Baha'i Faith is an independent religion that counts more than 5 million members worldwide, including about 200 in Mercer County. Its central principles are the oneness of God, the oneness of religion and the oneness of humankind. It strives to eradicate prejudices based on race, class, nationality and gender. It stresses the equality of women and men.
"I came all the way from Willingboro," said Nilda Keene. "I found the service extremely uplifting and helpful." Keene said she is a Baha'i and is in the process of moving to the United States from Puerto Rico.
Lawrence resident Anil Sivakumaran, who read a Hindu prayer, said, "The journey of understanding the causes and effects of what happened Tuesday will be a lonely one for each of us separately." He translated the prayer for those gathered, saying it called for unity.
Harpist Anisa Nisin traveled from Ridgewood to participate. "I really enjoyed how no one clapped (after each brief performance by the musicians). There was an overlying silence in the room, with all the beautiful music and readings from all different religions."
The chapel was often quiet enough to hear such sounds of nature as the chirping of crickets and the occasional quack from a duck in a nearby pond.
"I felt very uplifted. It was so beautiful," Nisin said.
West Windsor resident Klaus Schmeil said he attended because his wife is a Baha'i. "I like the multicultural backgrounds (of participants) and the fact that all religions are treated the same. They form a unity."
Schmeil, who labeled himself a Protestant, said, "I'm very much in favor of the Baha'i concept, actually."
©Copyright 2001, The Times (NJ)