The Congregational Church of Belmont will join churches across the nation to strengthen ties between faith traditions this Sunday, June 25.
"Faith Shared: Uniting in Prayer and Understanding" is the first interfaith event created by the Rev. Kristi Denham of the Congregational Church in Belmont. The event is dedicated to building bridges toward understanding common values within the Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities. Churches throughout the country hope to send the message that Americans respect religious differences and reject religious intolerance.
Faith Shared, a project of the Interfaith Alliance and Human Rights First, embraces the diversity of religious practices and seeks to send the universal message about American Christian respect for Islam. Tensions around Islam in America have grown in the past years, leading to misconceptions, distrust and in some cases violence, according to organizers.
The project engages faith leaders on national and community levels intended to develop and strengthen interfaith relationships by welcoming people of different religions, according to faithshared.org.
Imam Abdul Anwar of the Yaseen Foundation Mosque in Belmont and Rabbi Sarah Wolf of Congregation Beth Am in Palo Alto will speak on the importance of acknowledging shared values through sacred religious texts that stress the common values between Christian and Islamic faith.
Anwar will host readings from the Quran, the sacred writings of Islam, and the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures. Based on what passages will be chosen, Anwar said the verses will explain the life and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. Wolf will host readings from the Bible. Wolf said passages from Matthew will be discussed to bring light upon respecting and honoring a stranger and welcoming anyone with kindness and compassion.
Denham said ignorance is too often expressed in the media. Fear is promoted toward Muslims who share the same values as Americans. The media neglects any substantive representation of where the majority of Americans actually stand: a shared commitment to tolerance and freedom, she said.
The Congregational Church of Belmont wants to integrate the Muslim community by reducing stereotypes created by the war against Iraq, Denham added.
"So often Muslims are expressed as terrorists," Denham said. "This is not true. They come to America to love our way of life. We need to expand our understanding so that we can relax and love each other."
Anwar said he hopes the event will create awareness within people: Sharing and caring for humanity, caring for other fellow beings, and carrying moral and ethical values pertain to all human beings.
"We as individuals live in one society no matter how diverse we are," Anwar said. "We must be tolerant among one another, understand one another and understand our differences in faith and hopefully diversity can unite and bring us together."
Bridges of understanding are built by spending time with one another, sharing meals together and reaching across boundaries, Denham said. Opportunities are created when we realize we have the same values and want to attain the same goals. The more we know, the less we are afraid, she said.
Wolf said it is sacred and fundamental to look upon our faith and draw our traditions to shed light on a collective value.
"When we share our teachings, we are able to learn our differences from other faith communities and identify common grounds," Wolf said.
In addition to the event, worships will be conducted through prayers of different styles and traditions.
"We all value the 'golden rule': it is foundational to all faiths to do unto others as you would have them do unto you," Denham said. "We're all based on the idea that love is central. Our religious texts grew from the same traditions."
For more information, call the church at 650-593-4547 or visit www.uccbelmont.org.