SOMERSET, NJ - Franklin Township has close to 70 houses of worship within its borders and members representing some of them gathered in a “Solidarity and Brotherhood Prayer” on Saturday, March 11, at Temple Beth El.
Franklin Township's Interfaith Commission President Dr. Alex Kharazi and Vice President Rabbi Eli Garfinkel coordinated the event because of "the recent unprecedented increase in hate crimes against the Jewish and Muslim community across the nation."
Representatives from the Bahai, Buddhist, Catholic, Christian and Sikh faiths were in attendance in addition to members from local and county government.
"Franklin Township is a special place because our religious groups actually get along quite well if only we could export the respect that we have for each other to the rest of the planet," Garfinkel said. "I am so touched that our communities Muslims made the first move to have this event, it is comforting to know that you have our back and rest assured that we have yours as well. No Jew should ever shrug his shoulders in apathy when he hears of violence or bigotry against Muslims we should always remember that one who harms the Muslims or any other minority for that matter certainly has the Jews on his list as well."
Kharazi spotlighted recent instances of how Jews and Muslims have helped out one another throughout communities around the world. He also spoke about how he took his daughter to a Farsi language class at a Jewish temple in 1990, and the kindness that was shown to him will never be forgotten.
"To quote Mother Teresa 'if we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other' a gathering like this is a testament that we belong to each other," Kharazi said. "So brothers and sisters let us pray that our friendship becomes stronger each day."
Kharazi then invited attendees to take/reaffirm the Stand Up for the Other Pledge that reads:
While interacting with members of my own faith, or ethnic, or gender 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 speak up to challenge bigotry in any form.
Mayor Dr. Philip Kramer also addressed the attendees.
"From the announcements, we hear that there are members of at least three religions here and Councilman Prasad represents yet another religion," Kramer said. "That is what Franklin is about, it has multiple religions."
Kramer went on to say that the township has close to 70 different houses of worship.
“All of the religions represented here at one time have had members of their religion fighting members of the other religions on the basis of religion, and that’s sad,” Kramer said. “Here in this town, we have chosen to get along...We need to spread that throughout the world. If only we could spread it to the Middle East.”
Masjid-e-Ali Mosque, Imam Rizwan Rizvi urged the audience to make sure they are not just listening to the words that are being spoken at the day's solidarity prayer, but to make sure the words are carried away with them.
"Sometimes we just hear these words it comes into our minds, we feel good about it, and then we walk away with it, and it doesn't settle," Rizvi said. "Things that are heard with the ears must come down to the heart and settle into our heart before it can be exported out."
Rizvi also stressed the importance of turning enemies into friends. "We need to find a way to go ahead and bring them on board somehow make them and show them the brighter sides of the religions we have," Rizvi said.
Father Gregory Uhrig from St. Mathias Church also spoke to the crowd and spoke about how amazed he was at attending his first meeting with the Franklin Township Interfaith Commission and seeing all of the different religions represented with the group.
When discussing how amazed he was Uhrig said during the meeting he recalled something Pope Francis said 'We should build bridges and not walls all the time.'
Former Franklin Township Mayor, 17th district Assemblyman, and current Commissioner of New Jersey Board of Public Utilities Upendra J. Chivukula also addressed the audience and quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
'It is not the actions [violence] of the few that scare me, it is the silence of the many.'
Freeholder Brian D. Levine and Councilwoman Rozalyn Sherman were also in attendance. After the prayer was over attendees had the opportunity to mingle with one another while enjoying light snacks and beverages.
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