Hundreds gather at interfaith service
By NORMAN SHOAF
Valley Press Religion Editor
LANCASTER - Patriotism and passion marked the "9-11 Interfaith Memorial and Unity Service" for a crowd of nearly 400 people Wednesday evening at the Islamic Center of North Valley.
Valley Muslims welcomed the community to the mosque and provided a meal for the event, which was sponsored by the Antelope Valley Interfaith Council.
"We expected 175 people," said Bernard Price, Archbishop of the Mar Thoma Orthodox Catholic Church and president of the Interfaith Council."This is a wonderful turnout."
Price presided over the service.
Representatives from more than a dozen different faith communities shared prayers, readings and personal viewpoints during the ceremony. The lineup included leaders from the Islamic Center, Judaism, the Roman Catholic Church, the Methodist Church, Bahai, Buddhism, Native American Spirituality, Wicca, Christian Science, Unitarian Universalism, the Revealing Truth Center, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints and the Church of Religious Science.
Assemblyman George Runner, R-Lancaster, delivered brief remarks of welcome and unity to those gathered. Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford delivered a city proclamation honoring the event, to which other political leaders in the community sent greetings and well wishes.
The Interfaith Choir of the Antelope Valley Interfaith Council, under the direction of Kathe Walters, performed patriotic and sacred music, and up-and-coming country singer Charlie Davis delivered a hearty and heartfelt performance for an appreciative audience.
In his keynote address, Muslim chaplain Abdul-Wahab Omeira unequivocally denounced the terrorists who slammed jetliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field in an allout attack on the United States a year ago. In no uncertain terms, he expressed the love, appreciation and support of the American Muslim community for the freedoms and opportunities every citizen can enjoy in this country.
Omeira also spoke of the American Muslim community's ill treatment at the hands of an understandably angry but, in some cases, ignorant minority of Americans reacting to the terror strikes.
"We were upset to hear Attorney General John Ashcroft demonize Muslims by saying, `The Christian God sent his Son to die for mankind, but the Muslims send their children to blow up innocent people,' " Omeira said.
Law enforcement and rescue workers were honored with a standing ovation. Firefighters responded to duty during the event when they were called away to a reported emergency.
©Copyright 2002, Antelope Valley Press