Nearly 220 people poured into Eastminster Presbyterian Church at 1315 Abbot Road to attend an Interfaith Gathering of Solidarity and Hope on Nov. 16. The event was planned by members of the Interfaith Clergy Association of Greater Lansing and is a yearly event, typically billed as a service of Thanksgiving.
This year, however, it was an opportunity to inspire understanding and friendship after the October Hamas attacks on Israel and the retaliation that followed.
“We are gathered here tonight because we believe as people of faith that coming together matters,” the Rev. Kristin Stroble, pastor of the Eastminster congregation, said. “In times of joy, in times of sorrow, in times of fear, in times of division, we come together because we share a belief that we, all of us, across faiths, nationalities, beliefs, ethnicities are neighbors. We all share a common humanity.”
Stroble took to the lectern just as the service was slated to begin to inform those gathered they were waiting until all the cars in the parking lot found a spot and people made their way into the sanctuary. The delay was because attendance and interest were higher this year than in recent years.
“The conflict between Israel and Hamas is fueling a rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia here at home, so we come together as people of faith to say that hate will not be tolerated in our community,” Stroble said.
Imam Sohail Chadhry of the Islamic Center of East Lansing spoke to attendees and stressed the importance of caring for one’s neighbor.
“In the Islamic tradition,” Chaudhry said, “like in other faith traditions of the world, the rights of the neighbor, the love of the neighbor, the care of the neighbor is something of paramount importance, of great importance.
“Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, told the Muslims the rights of the neighbor are so great that you cannot be a believer if your neighbor is hungry and you’ve had food. You cannot be a believer in God Almighty on the last day if you are a source of annoyance to your neighbor,” Chaudry said. “He also said, you are not allowed to build a second story on your own house without your neighbor’s permission because you might be blocking your neighbor’s sunlight, you might be blocking your neighbor’s view. These are the kinds of rights that Islam emphasized 1,400 years ago. You are my neighbor, I am your neighbor. We need to take care of each other, we need to love each other, we need to know each other.”
Rabbis Matthew Kaufman of Lansing’s Congregation Kehillat Israel and Amy Bigman of East Lansing’s Congregation Shaarey Zedek joined Chaudhry at the microphone, providing a physical reminder of the friendship the three share.
Kaufman shared a message he and Bigman gave to Chaudhry to share with his community.
“As rabbis, as Jews, and as your neighbors and friends we view with alarm the rise of Islamophobia together with antisemitism in this country,” Kaufman said. “What is happening in the Middle East must not be allowed to undermine the supportive and caring relationship we share here. The sages teach that truly living by the dictates of Torah requires a willingness to bear the yoke of a burden with one’s fellow and friend. We Jews and Muslims are alike, burdened by loss, by pain and by fear for our safety. Let us not each try to bear these burdens alone but recognize that we must bear it together. The Torah further teaches that one must not bear hatred toward their brother, but one must love one’s neighbor as one’s son.”
As the event ended, the Rev. Donna McNiel of Canterbury MSU gave concluding remarks.
“We know that relationships with one another and conversations,” she said, “even when it’s hard, can change the world, could stop a war, can heal broken, hurting hearts. So we invite you to speak to someone you do not know, perhaps just to say hello and share what brought you here.”
A collection plate passed during the service raised more than $5,600 with proceeds going to support increased security costs of Jewish and Muslim houses of worship in the community.
Did you know that East Lansing is the only municipality in our region with the kind of independent coverage of local government, schools, and the arts and culture that ELi provides? If you value this nonprofit news service, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution TODAY. Learn more about our Annual Campaign here, and find all your donation options here. Got a question? Write to us.