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Unitarian Universalists Reach Out to Islamic and Sikh Communities: People of Faith Respond to September 11, 2001
September 14, 2001
In the face of growing threats of violence against both America's Islamic community and Sikhs who are sometimes mistaken for Muslims, Unitarian Universalists across the country are reaching out to those faith communities.
On Wednesday, September 12, 2001, the day after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Rev. William Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), sent a pastoral letter to all Unitarian Universalist ministers and congregations asking that they offer support to the Arab and Muslim communities in their areas. Later that day, Sinkford visited the offices of the American Muslim Council in Washington, DC, to offer his encouragement and support. Mr. Aly R. Abuzaakouk, executive director of the American Muslim Council (AMC), said, " We appreciate greatly the meeting with the president of the UUA and also his letter of support for American Muslims. We are all saddened by the loss of life, and we feel compassion for the victims and their families. In this time of crisis, it is important for faith communities to come together. We look forward to rebuilding our nation together." Abuzaakouk said that Sinkford's letter was distributed to all members of the AMC through the organization's email distribution lists.
In his pastoral letter, Sinkford likened the attacks in New York City and Washington, DC, to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, saying, "Pearl Harbor did galvanize this nation into action, and my hope is that this tragedy, too, will impel us to address the brokenness of our world that makes violence an imaginable solution." But Sinkford added this caution and call: "Remember also that Pearl Harbor led to the impounding and imprisonment of thousands of innocent Japanese Americans. There are Arab and Muslim communities in this country and around the world that grieve as we do, and fear as we do. I hope our congregations will reach out to those communities and stand with them."
In a second open letter sent today, Sinkford called for Unitarian Universalist support for the American Sikh community as well. "Let me also encourage our congregations to reach out to Sikh communities in this country," Sinkford said. "Though the Sikh community is not Muslim, they too are at risk of being blamed for this tragedy."
Unitarian Universalist congregations across the country report grateful responses to their outreach efforts to Islamic groups in their localities. On Tuesday, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia, Maryland, hosted an interfaith service with Dar Al Taqwa, a Muslim congregation, and the president of the Islamic Center of New England participated in an interfaith prayer service at the First Parish Church (Unitarian Universalist) in Weston, MA. On Thursday, representatives of the Augusta, GA, Islamic Society addressed an interfaith gathering at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Augusta. And today at the invitation of Mohammad Suleman, president of the Islamic Association of North Texas, Unitarian Universalists from First Unitarian Church of Dallas will attend an interfaith service at the Dallas Central Mosque. Please check with the Unitarian Universalist congregation in your area for further information on interfaith activities.