Different faiths join in prayer
Posted March 28, 2003
Fiaz Ahmed doesn't often go to church to pray.
And the 35-year-old Muslim doesn't often worship in Hebrew.
But the South Elgin resident did just that Thursday when he attended an interfaith peace and unity service at Elgin's Messiah Lutheran Church.
"Our ways of belief may not be the same, but our ultimate goals are the same - everyone hopes for peace," said Ahmed, a physician at Provena St. Joseph Hospital.
Inviting Elgin residents to rally around the touchstones of peace, unity, healing and hope, the Coalition of Elgin Religious Leaders convened the service last week in response to the onset of violence in Iraq.
"We all needed to pray and we thought the community also needed to pray," said the Rev. Patricia Hewitt, Messiah Lutheran's pastor.
The coalition is composed of representatives from the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Baha'i, Jain and Unitarian Universalist faiths.
Cantor Alan Smolen and the Rev. Herbert Hedstrom joined Hewitt in leading the service, though they cautiously steered clear of ideological debates about the merits of war.
"We have no agenda except to pray together," said Hedstrom, pastor at the Evangelical Covenant Church of Elgin.
Hewitt set the tone for the service with her opening prayer for peace, a theme underlying Smolen's reflection prayer.
"We must be tenacious like Aaron," who, Smolen explained, is revered as a paradigm of peace in Jewish tradition. Smolen heads Elgin's Congregation Kneseth Israel.
"We must be lovers of peace and pursuers of peace. It's something earned, not just delivered on a silver platter."
When Smolen sang "Sim Shalom ba'o'lam," leading worshipers in a prayer for universal peace, his entreaty resonated with Ahmed.
"Salam means peace in Islam, it's almost the same word the cantor used," he said, adding that this common language underscored his belief that "everyone is in the same boat."
Though the service was deliberately nonpolitical, Bettina Perillo's personal prayers were not quite as neutral.
"There is no need for this war. Jesus Christ called us to be peacemakers. Being at war does not fit Christ's call," said the South Elgin resident who describes herself as a "Christian peace activist."
Coalition leaders said they plan to host bimonthly interfaith peace and unity services, the next of which will occur in Elgin's First Congregational Church at 7 p.m. April 10.
And Ahmed said he will be definitely be there.
"I will try to get more people from my community involved."
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