Baha'i News -- Interfaith group allied in eradicating hate

Interfaith group allied in eradicating hate

Muslim is honored for promoting peace in Peoria community

October 18, 2002

of the Journal Star

PEORIA - Joan Criswell made an effort Thursday night to eradicate hate from her community.

"I really feel like we need to continue any activity that will make it clear that hate is not welcome in our community," the 73-year-old Peorian said.

By attending the fourth annual "Stop the Hate" vigil held at Unity Church of Peoria, she and about 100 others were making an effort to stamp out hate in Peoria.

The Rev. Linda Foreman of Unity Church was glad to host the event. It was presented by the central Illinois chapter of the Interfaith Alliance.

The vigil "brings the community into greater awareness and understanding of those who are oppressed," Foreman said, "those who are experiencing violence because of someone's actions toward them - hate crimes, spousal and child abuse."

The vigil included songs, prayers, readings and a candle-lighting ceremony, all of which centered around faith and the exchange of cultural traditions.

Bashir Ali, 50, of Peoria received the Interfaith Alliance Faith and Freedom Award for promoting peace and justice in the Peoria community.

"It's always a blessing when you have people come together to address the ills of society in a peaceful manner," said Ali, a Muslim who is active in the community. "This event emphasizes the common values we all have to promote the greater good."

Raj Nagarajan of Peoria thought it was important for his family to attend the vigil. "It is very important in society that we have the need to understand other faiths because this will promote mutual respect and awareness which will prolong tolerance and acceptance."

Nagarajan's daughter, Aarthi, joined in the prayers for peace from different faith traditions by reciting two Hindu prayers.

"Hate has caused many problems in the U.S. - we have to join together and stop that," Aarthi, 10, said.

Members of the American Indian community also offered a prayer, which included traditional ritual singing.

Other prayers were offered by members of the Baha'i, Muslim, Pagan, Jewish, African, Buddhist and Christian religions.

Near the end of the vigil, the participants formed a circle around the perimeter of the church and lit individual candles from one that had been lit in memory of all those targeted by hate and/or violence.

During this ceremony, Foreman said, "It only takes one to make a difference, and look how many ones are in this world."

The Interfaith Alliance offers Americans a nonpartisan, mainstream, faith-based agenda committed to the positive role of religion as a healing and constructive force in public life.

"The alliance attempts to raise the understanding of the community and to come together and learn about each other's differences, but work for a common purpose, especially to right social injustice and promote positive role of religion," Foreman said.

©Copyright 2002, The Journal Star (Illinois)

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