SOMERSET, NJ - Hundreds of people attended a community vigil hosted by the Franklin Township Interfaith Council at St. Mathias Church Sunday night, to show support for Charlottesville, and to stand in solidarity with one another.
Franklin Township is home to more than 60 different spiritual houses of worship, and more than 60 different languages are spoken by its public school children at home, it is a very diverse town, to say the least.
Last week Dr. Alex Kharazi, president of the Franklin Township Interfaith Council sent out a statement to members of the community saying, "We are deeply saddened and concerned by emboldened hatred and violence that is taking place across our nation with the latest (example) being Saturday with a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that resulted in 19 people injured and the death of Heather Heyer." Kharazi's statement went onto ask the community to encourage their friends and family to come out to hear from educational, spiritual, and government leaders about how "hate is not to be tolerated."
"Supremacism is a myth, no race is better than any other race, Rabbi Eli Garfinkel, vice president of the FT Interfaith Council said. "No ethnic or religious group is better than any other ethnic or religious group, we all have the same basic DNA, we are all human beings. The fiction of supremacism should be in the same category with Big Foot, unicorns, and vampires. Even though we are a diverse country we are supposed to be united on certain issues of basic morality. One such issue is that white supremacism and nazism is evil, end of sentence full stop."
During the vigil, local, county, and state officials spoke out and condemned hate and stressed the importance of unity.
“Now is the time to look evil in the face and say, you shall go no further, Mayor Phil Kramer (D) said. “Now is the time to look to your left and to your right and say, I will stand with you until we have won. Now is the time to remember America has always been great. And I know we will win, because hate has no chance when faced by courageous people who keep love and freedom in their hearts.”
"There is nothing wrong with being proud of your race and your heritage, but when it is steeped in bigotry racism and violence that inflicts pain on others it is intolerable and unacceptable," Councilwoman At-Large Shanel Robinson (D) said.
"I am a politician, often I must compromise," Somerset County Freeholder, Brian D. Levine (R) said. "Give a little to get a worthy project or law passed, that I deem beneficial. But there are some things you can never compromise or give up on. For us in Franklin and Somerset County there is no compromise, there is no surrender, there is no option, other than integrity, and pursuing righteous goals. It may not always be easy because unfortunately evil has momentum but integrity is stronger."
Somerset Presbyterian Reverend Sharon Culley evoked a timely quote from Martin Niemöller, stressing the importance of how we should all look out for one another, and speak out when we see injustice.
According to Kharazi, Assemblyman Joe Danielsen (D) drove from Philadelphia where his daughter is being treated for cancer so he could make the vigil and remind attendees how important it is to fight hate with love.
"When evil raises its ugly head, we will suffocate it with our love, we will kill it with our kindness, we will not aim our attacks at them, we will aim our prayers at them, they need to be cured, not my family," Danielsen said.
The vigil ended with a candlelight vigil using cell phones and led lights, and everyone taking the pledge to Stand Up for the Other.
"There are more than 60 languages spoken at home in Franklin Township Public Schools, and their families bring rich cultures into our classrooms and enhance and enlighten our community," Board of Education President, Ed Potosnak said. "We embrace our diversity and stand united against hate and bigotry in any form."
Rev. Douglas J. Haefner
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