Monday, September 9, 2002
Sept. 11 service to unite many faiths
NORWICH -- Roman Catholics and Christian Orthodox and Congregational followers, along with Jews, Muslims and members of the Baha'i religion, will join together for a rare interfaith service Wednesday to commemorate the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
Leaders of these different faiths say the tragedy of a year ago has proven to be a springboard into a spirit of unity -- at least for this one occasion -- among those whose beliefs vary widely.
"I think it definitely drew people together," Rabbi Gary Atkins of Beth Jacob Synagogue said. "We recognize, in responding to this, that doctrinal differences were secondary and the religious messages of hope and the need to look inside ourselves for goodness and strength was one that transcended theological differences."
The service will be held at 7 p.m. at the Park Congregational Church. There will be an hour of prayer, music and moments of silence. Afterwards, participants will be encouraged to join a candlelight vigil at Chelsea Parade at about 8 p.m.
The Rev. Sidat Balgobin of the Park Congregational Church said Sept. 11 seemed to draw the nation together, though he remains concerned that patriotism could lead to nationalism. True unity, he said, goes beyond just patriotism.
"Out of the ashes comes a greater sense of compassion," he said. "We have just really started an awareness that we really are a part of the whole world culture and we're interconnected. What brings us backwards is when we talk of war. That is so divisive."
Balgobin added that it is human nature to seek out an enemy to band together and fight against. But the problem is most people don't see the enemy within, which comes in the form of prejudice, fear and ignorance.
"The goal is to become a person of love -- to be fully in love with God and human beings," he said. "To do that a lot of things need to be broken down in us."
Marge Blizzard of Norwich is a member of the Baha'i religion, which she described as a religion of unity based in the Middle East that started in the 1840s. She said she is glad that people seem to have a greater interest in Islam.
Blizzard could only recall two other interfaith services in the city- one that took place last Thanksgiving and a smaller meeting that occurred 24 years ago.
Maher Ghrayeb, a 31-year-old Palestinian living in Norwich, said he has noticed friends and co-workers who stay more up-to-date on issues in the Middle East. Ghrayeb, who works at Scan Optics in Manchester, said he is pleased they do because ignorance is part of the world's problem.
Atkins said he plans to talk about "interfaith foxholes" at the service. He said because of the evil in the world people should not worry about the religion of the people next to them, but instead work to strengthen togetherness.
©Copyright 2002, Norwich Bulletin (CT)