WESTFIELD, NJ — Nearly 600 people came to the Parish Community of St. Helen Wednesday evening for “Day of Prayer and Reflection: Honoring People of All Faith Communities” sponsored by Union County Interfaith Coordinating Council and Community Access Unlimited, an organization that provides community access through person-centered support services for adults and adolescents with intellectual and developmental disabilities and at-risk youth.
Members of the clergy offered prayers and encouraged participants to look at each other as brothers and sisters and to stand up against bigotry and intolerance. Dr. Mohammad Ali Chaudry of the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge urged everyone present to sign a pledge to “stand up for the other” that reads:
While interacting with members of my own faith or ethnic community, or with others, if I hear hateful comments from anyone about members of any other community, I pledge to stand up for the other and challenge bigotry in any form.
The pledge form is available online at www.standupfortheother.org.
CAU Executive Director Sidney Blanchard noted that the event promoting understanding and inclusiveness had grown tremendously since the first Union County Day of Prayer three years ago, which attracted just under 200 people.
“We have nearly 600 people from Union County here of different religions, people with disabilities, as well,” Blanchard said. “In these times when families seem to breaking apart, the Union County faith organizations as well as Community Access Unlimited are working to recreate family and community for all people.”
Blanchard told the crowd, “Every person is a valued human being that we celebrate by coming here tonight.”
Among the clergy who spoke were Father Michael Saporito of the Parish Community of St. Helen, Deacon Tim Williams, Reverend Ann Marie Alderman of First Unitarian Society of Plainfield, Reverend Dr. LL Dureuil of Faith United Church of Christ of Union, Rabbi Joel Abraham of Temple Sholom of Scotch Plains, Reverend Msgr. Timothy A. Shugrue of Willow Grove Presbyterian Church of Scotch Plains, Imam Said El Kasabi of the Islamic Center of Union County in Union, Venerable Klint Kevalin of the Dhammakaya Meditation Center of Fanwood, Pastor Nicolas Jose of Ephesus 7th Day Adventist Workshop Center of Rahway, Reverend Ramon Collazo of Santa Isabel Lutheran Church of Elizabeth, Imam Nizam Ahmad Raouf Zaman of the Muslim Center of Middlesex County in Piscataway, Reverend Dr. Carol A. Lindsay of the Calvary Lutheran Church of Cranford, Reverend David Mertz of the First United Methodist Church of Westfield, Reverend Caroline Unzaga of the First Presbyterian Church of Cranford and Dr. Chaudry.
Music was performed by the students of the Muslim Community Center of Union County led by Nawaz Sheikh, Kayla Richardson (student of the Institute of Music for Children), the Fanwood/Scotch Plains Community Choir led by Cantor Matthew Axelrod of Congregation Beth Israel of Scotch Plains and the Choir of St. Helen in Westfield and its musical director Fred Golz.