From The Mayor’s Desk...
From The Mayor’s Desk...
City Treasures Its Rich, Diverse Religious Faiths
Many New Yorkers find comfort and guidance in our diverse religious faiths-especially during times of stress and uncertainty. Last week, I was a guest for services at two religious institutions in our city: a church in Brooklyn and a mosque in Queens. And in each, it was clear how important the safety of our loved ones, the security of our city, and the protection of our religious freedom are to all of us.
The church services last Sunday were at Bridge Street African Methodist Episcopal Church. Bridge Street A-M-E was founded more than 230 years ago-when New York was still a British colony-and it is one of the oldest, largest and most-respected churches in the African American community. The war in Iraq was a major concern of the congregation members, many of whom have friends or loved ones now serving in the armed forces overseas. During his sermon, Reverend David Cousin voiced their wishes-and, I think, the wishes of all New Yorkers-when he prayed that the war will end quickly, and that our men and women in uniform will all return home safely. For my part, I added my own assurances that our city is doing the best job possible to keep New York safe.
On Friday, I attended prayer services at Imam al-Khoei Islamic Center in Jamaica. It was founded 14 years ago to meet the needs of the growing Muslim community in Queens. There are some 600,000 Muslim New Yorkers, many of them immigrants from more than 20 nations. The imam, or religious leader, at the Center, Sheikh Fadhel Al-Sahlani, is an Iraqi immigrant who has spoken out against Saddam Hussein’s tyranny.
I asked those at the service to remember that our nation is at war against a dangerous dictator, and not against the Iraqi people or the Islamic faith, and assured them that here in New York, our struggle to prevent terrorism is not directed against any community. And I told them that our city will not tolerate any illegal or disrespectful acts directed against Muslim homes, businesses or institutions.
And on Tuesday of this week I held a pre-Passover security briefing with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. We recognize that during Passover, there is a heightened possibility that synagogues and other Jewish institutions might become targets of hate-and that this year, because of events in the Middle East, they might also be threatened by acts of terror. The measures the NYPD is taking to protect all houses of worship will reflect the additional security steps the NYPD instituted throughout the city after the fighting began in Iraq.
The right to practice our religious beliefs in freedom and security has always been important to New Yorkers. In Flushing-not far from where Friday’s prayer service took place-residents of the colony of New Amsterdam wrote a public letter in 1657 proclaiming that "the law of love, peace and liberty" covered people of every faith. They specifically mentioned people who worship Allah. That letter is one of the foundation documents expressing the American belief in religious freedom.