Here in Florida, we know hurricanes. When the high winds and heavy rains come, we do what people do when disaster strikes and lives and ways of life are put at risk. We pull together. In Florida, when the hurricanes come, it brings out the cooperative spirit. We help each other get through the power outage, the clean-up, and the repairs. And we give particular attention to the ones hit hardest.
In like manner, we saw a hurricane of religious division headed our way, due to hit this week-end. Rev. Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach Center had announced that September 11 was “Burn a Koran Day,” and that he intended to publicly burn copies of the Quran on that day, in a gesture of contempt for Islam and Muslims.
When this storm of religious strife appeared headed our way, Gainesville’s faith community and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship responded. In the last week Jews, and Christians, and Moslems, and Hindus and Unitarian Universalists have joined and been blessed by one another.
On Wednesday September 8, at in Interfaith Prayer service at Trinity Episcopal Church, leaders from all three Abrahamic faiths shared in prayers together for peace and for harmony among peoples of diverse faith.
On Friday evening, September 10, hundreds gathered at Trinity United Methodist Church for “Gathering for Peace, Understanding, and Hope” -- an evening of coming together and engaging various peace activities and in conversations across religious lines.
On Saturday afternoon, September 11, there was a rally and march in the neighborhood of Dove World Outreach. I was among the speakers. At the same time,"A Day of Peace and Unity" on the downtown plaza organized by the Gainesville Muslim Initiative included speakers and conversations for interfaith peace, and a candlelight vigil.
Members of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship were in attendance at all these events, engaging with our neighbors of varying faiths and doing the work of building mutual understanding.
Our Sunday service on September 12 carried out a commitment made a month before among a dozen or so congregations to include certain specified passages from the Quran at our respective Sabbath services on the weekend of September 10-12. (The passages: Surah 3:64, 2:177, 2:136, and 49:13).
In the face of the threatening hurricane of symbolic intolerance, the interfaith community came together. And we gave particular attention to the ones hit hardest. The Gainesville, and indeed, World Islamic community was targeted, and so, in solidarity with our Muslim siblings, and in solidarity, too, with all the congregations who are also stood with our Muslim neighbors and friends, our choir sang songs of peace, including a beautiful Iraqi peace song, and I spoke of our denomination’s historic connections with Islam, and of our ongoing commitment as Unitarian Universalists to the work of building true peace.
An inclement climate for tolerance called for special action. At the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, standing on the side of love is our everyday commitment, come foul weather or fair.