The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone. Matthew Weiner, the author, is the Program Director at the Interfaith Center of New York. He is writing a book about Interfaith and Civil Society.
When terror attacks like those in Mumbai occur, many people of faith want to stand together despite their differences to condemn them with one voice. Faith leaders in New York, having seen their own city targetted in 2001, quickly responded with a show of support for their sister city in India. Their news conference on the steps of New York’s City Hall on Monday was an example of how faith communities in the world’s most religiously diverse metropolis can join hands to speak out against such violence. (Photo: New York interfaith meeting, 1 Dec 2008/Edwin E. Bobrow)
Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, senior vice-president of the New York Board of Rabbis, Mo Razvi, a Pakistani-American Muslim and community organizer, and the Interfaith Center of New York organized the meeting while Councilman John Liu got the green light to use City Hall as the venue. Potasnick worked through Thanksgiving weekend to make it happen and insisted on having representatives from every faith. “It is very important to condemn the attacks…but it is imperative we stand together with one voice,” he said.
Indeed almost everyone was there. Imam Shamsi Ali of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York spoke condemned the attacks by Muslim extremists as un-Islamic. Jaspreet Singh of the United Sikhs spoke on behalf of a community rooted in the Indian Subcontinent. Imam Syed Sayeed, a Muslim from India and longtime New Yorker, recalled his homeland has been a religiously plural place for thousands of years. Ven. Kondannya of the New York Buddhist Council called for a non-violent response to the attacks, as did Jain community representative Naresh Jain, who lost a friend in the killing. Members of Chabad, the Brooklyn-based Hasidic community who lost a rabbi in the attacks, were also present.
Dr. Uma Mysorekar, president of the Hindu Temple Society of North America, said she had trained in a Mumbai hospital that treated many victims and remembered the discussions that students of different faiths used to have there. “In Mumbai now, they are getting back to work,” she said. “This is all we can do. It is what the terrorists want to stop us from doing.” Dr. Mysorekar had held a prayer service with Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn just hours after the attack and prayers have continued at her temple in Queens ever since.