Christian and Muslim leaders gathered on the eve of the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks to express solidarity, and the willingness to continue working to find common ground between the two faiths.
Muslim Americans expressed thanks to religious leaders and members of the community who stood with them this past year.
"The events of the last year were not only tragic, but a trauma to all of us as members of this nation," said Ali Antar, president of the Islamic Association of Greater Hartford in Berlin, where about 40 members of the mosque and faith leaders gathered Tuesday. "As Muslim Americans we are saying on behalf of our families that we thank you very much for the outpouring of support from our friends, neighbors and religious leaders."
While the past year challenged the relationship between Christians and Muslims, the result has also been greater contact between the two faiths, with interfaith services being conducted in wake of Sept. 11, and more people in each community talking to each other than there had been before. At the same time, fears of terrorism and a possible war against Iraq continue to heighten tensions.
The Rev. Stephen J. Sidorak Jr., executive director of the Christian conference of Connecticut, blasted remarks made in the past year against Muslims and Islam by leaders such as Christian evangelist Franklin Graham and Attorney General John Ashcroft. He also criticized Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman's support of a possible war against Iraq.
"We are starting to tread perilously close to the crusade tradition within church history, and beginning to be too eager to march "Onward Christian Soldiers," as to war against Muslim and other nation states, Sidorak said, adding that underlying causes of terrorism need to be learned.
Sidorak added that Lieberman is now "beating the drums of war rather than leading a debate with the Bush administration and arguing that every alternative to violence should be pursued before any war is waged."
Bishop Daniel Hart, of the Norwich diocese, said the events of Sept. 11 have led to greater effort on the part of many Christians and Muslims to reach out to each other.
"We have responsibility as Christians to respect the dignity of each person and to contribute what we can to harmony and peace," Hart said. "We didn't come together at all before last year, so I think this is sign that things are changing. It's a process."
Heidi Hadsell, president of Hartford Seminary, said "we have discovered that in conversation and in living we don't lose our own faith or religious identity, but we grow in our faith, and at the same time grow in our awareness and respect for others."
Imam Zaid Shakir, of Masjid Al-Islam in New Haven, Lowell Fewster, executive minister, American Baptist Churches of Connecticut, Marie T. Hilliard, Catholic Conference of Connecticut, Wilfredo Ramos, bishop suffragan, Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut, Rev. Robert Dvorak, president, Christian Conference of Connecticut, and Bruce Steinway, New England Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church, were among those attending the mosque event.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times