Interfaith Service Unites Canarsie Community
By Marsha Sereno
In the aftermath of the devastating terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and elsewhere in our nation, Canarsiens of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds gathered in St. Jude School’s Coyne Hall for an Interfaith Service this past Sunday afternoon.
The service, sponsored by Senator John Sampson, The Informed Voices Civic Association and The Association of Informed Voices was attended by over 350 people. Clergy from the houses of worship in the community (representing Judaism, Christianity and Islam) and their congregants were invited to attend the service. Local civic associations, block associations, the 69th Pct and its Community Council, as well as community service organizations were welcomed to be a part of the afternoon’s program.
In his opening remarks Senator Sampson applauded Informed Voices Civic Association Co-founder and Board member Wanda Ihrig for her tireless efforts and for the outstanding role she played in the coordination of the event. Ms. Ihrig, turning to the stage, credited the clergy for their spiritual contributions to making the service a reality.
The feelings shared by members of the clergy and elected officials offered both insight and hope. In his opening prayer Fr. Mike Tedone, Parochial Vicar of the Shrine of St. Jude implored God to "help us to respond as a city to the evil clenched first of terrorism with the open hand of love." Senator Sampson was emphatic when he stated, "We should not ask God, "Why did this happen? We should ask God ‘What can I learn from what has happened?’ "We have learned that we are one and that the most important thing we have is one another. On Sept. 11th we became united as one. We want to remain as one. We may have our differences, but under God we are one individual".
Assemblyman Frank Seddio explained that "terrorists think of us as weak. They do not understand us...We view America not as a country, but as an ideal...giving all hope for freedom. We are no longer ethnic Americans. We think of ourselves as Americans."
Lewis Fidler, who recently won the Democrastic primary for the 46th City Council district, reminded all of a lesson that in recent weeks has become painfully clear. "Our children need to be reminded that the true heroes are not the ones who can play ball, score a home run or make a great jump shot. The heroes are those who put their lives on the line every day."
Rabbi Avrohom Hecht of the Jewish Community Council of Canarsie mourned not only the massive loss of life, but the death of innocence the recent devastation has cost our nation. "Much more was lost than thousands of tons of steel and stone. Our innocence is now something of the past." Referring to the ethnic diversity of the city, Rev. Edward R.P. Kane of Holy Family Church proudly declared, "We here in this city are a representation of the whole world!"
Clergy and other members of the Islamic community attended the service to offer their condolences and support. Dr. Hamud Al Silwi of the Muslim American Society informed the crowd that the true teachings of Islam are peace and justice. He went on to say that American Muslims condemn the acts of terrorism. He strongly urged Muslims to "step forward and help" and declared to all that we must "be united—one family—one community".
"Our hearts go out to those suffering during this time" he stated sadly. Spiritually uplifting songs were performed by the Upper Room Life Changing Ministries and a second choir spontaneously formed by community members of all ages (the youngest, age 8) races, sexes, ethnic backgrounds and walks of life. A moving rendition of the National Anthem by Joe Perry brought pride to the hearts of all and tears to the eyes of many. Spirits soared as Edna Lopez sang "On Eagles Wings". A spontaneous display of patriotism filled the room as neighbor took the hand of neighbor and sang and swayed to "God Bless America."