The 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks coupled with recent high-profile instances of violence across the country has prompted a group of local religious leaders to come together in a display of unity.
Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Baha’i faith leaders from Deerfield, Highland Park, Northbrook and Lincolnshire will hold an interfaith service at 2 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 11 at Jewett Park in Deerfield.
“We want to make a statement all of us are seeking peace, hope, love and healing in our country,” Pastor Brian Roots of Deerfield’s Christ United Methodist Church said. “These are common values we share.”
Initially motivated by terrorist attacks carried out in the name of religion and countless other shootings over the past few years, Roots said members of the local clergy association came up with the idea for the service during one of their meetings.
“We wanted to do the opposite,” Roots said of the violence of both 15 years ago and in recent days. “There is so much religious bigotry both verbal and physical. We need to understand people and find a way live with each other.”
The group felt there was no more appropriate day than Sept. 11, because it fell on a Sunday and it was 15 years after the attack itself.
Roots said each clergy member will speak briefly and attendees will sing secular songs together and greet each other in peace. He said members of police and fire departments have been invited so they can be thanked for their service on Sept. 11 and beyond.
With recent attacks at an Orlando nightclub and in San Bernardino by perpetrators claiming allegiance to the Islamic State, Roots said his group wants to quell any notion faith had anything to do with it.
Hzim Fazlic, the imam at the Islamic Cultural Center of Greater Chicago in Northbrook, said killing in the name of God has been going on for more than 1,000 years but murder is not part of his faith.
“They do not speak for 1.5 billion people,” Fazlic said. “They get the attention but no one talks for the other 99.999 percent who live with peace and honor.”
Fazlic said holding this interfaith service on the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks is important.
“It was the most gruesome time in U.S. history since World War II,” Fazlic said. “It is a major event and we should come together to commemorate it. We try to stamp out violence and conflict with what we do.”
Roots said he recognizes the racial tension in the country as well and wants to make a statement about that too.
“We want to reach out to each other and live peacefully,” Roots said.
Also participating in the service is Rabbi Nancy Landsman, the spiritual leader of Deerfield’s Congregation Ahavat Olam. She said all of the faiths are united in their message of humanity.
“We are living in very scary times,” Landsman said. “I don’t recall a time in my life with people being as intolerant as they are now. There is so much violence, so much hatred.”
Along with the faith leaders, Deerfield Mayor Harriet Rosenthal will speak to attendees. She said she remembers times of more tolerance and the community should try to behave with more acceptance.
“We need to take a step back and be the melting pot for the community of immigrants who are here now,” Rosenthal said. “We need to develop tolerance for each other’s beliefs.”
Other participating congregations from Deerfield are Baha’i of Deerfield, Beth Chaverim Humanistic Jewish Community, the First Presbyterian Church, Holy Cross Catholic Church, Trinity United Church of Christ and Zion Lutheran Church along with the Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit in Lincolnshire and Trinity Episcopal Church of Highland Park.
Article Courtesy – Chicago Tribune