Baha'i News -- A Stamford group takes leap of faith

A Stamford group takes leap of faith

By Chris Gale
Special Correspondent

March 17, 2002

STAMFORD - The Web site and letterhead may still read Council of Churches and Synagogues, but the organization recently moved toward greater openness by officially changing its name to the Interfaith Council.

"It'll take some time to change the letterhead and the Web site," said Deborah Goldberg, director of interfaith-congregational services for the Stamford-based group. "But I think we all say 'Interfaith Council' when we answer the phone now."

Goldberg said the organization has long included groups other than Christian and Jewish ones -- such as a Baha'i organization -- but urgency for changing the name was added in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"The Muslim community reached out to us and we reached out to them," she said, noting that the Stamford-based American Institute for Islamic and Arabic Studies was one of the groups that joined the council. "We decided we needed to go ahead and change the name."

Along with changing its name, the council also welcomed its first Sikh congregation during the winter assembly meeting.

"After Sept. 11, many people confused Sikhs for Muslims," said Stamford resident Hira Singh, president of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji Foundation Gurudwara Sikh Temple in Norwalk. "This was the straw that broke the camel's back."

Singh said his group, one of two Sikh temples in Connecticut, decided to approach the council to teach the community about their faith and to learn more about the other faiths in the region.

The council's welcome was warm, he said.

"When we attended their meeting, one of their representatives greeted us in a manner correct with our traditions," Singh said.

Lower Fairfield County has become more welcoming for Sikhs in the months since the initial tension after the attacks, he said.

The council is making other efforts to diversify its reach, Goldberg said.

The Interfaith Council is 75 percent finished with a census of faith groups in the area that will help the organization reach out to a broader range of religions, she said.

Calvary Baptist Church, East Avenue United Methodist Church, Grace Baptist Church, and St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, all of Norwalk, also joined during the assembly.

©Copyright 2002, The Stamford Advocate

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