Bay Shore interfaith service marks International Day of Peace

Speakers representing many faiths sit in the front

Speakers representing many faiths sit in the front row during a prayer service for the UN's International Day of Peace at Masjid Darul Quran mosque in Bay Shore, NY (Sept. 21, 2013) (Credit: Ed Betz)

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Prayers for peace and unity rang out in English, Arabic, Hindi and Hebrew as about 100 people gathered in Bay Shore on Saturday to observe the United Nations International Day of Peace.

The Long Island Multi-Faith Forum has held the annual event in churches and temples. This year, the Masjid Darul Quran, a mosque, served as host.

"This is a special day because it is observed around the world, reminding people that we all need peace, no matter what religion we belong to," said Sanaa Nadim, a Muslim chaplain at Stony Brook University's Interfaith Center.

As tree branches waved in the wind outside the mosque's large windows, the service began with two minutes of silence for victims of violence.

With radical Islamic gunmen killing at least 39 people at a shopping mall in Kenya on Saturday -- targeting non-Muslims, according to witnesses -- the message of unity across faiths had special resonance.

Hafiz ur Rehman, Suffolk County's human rights commissioner, said he learned before the event that a close friend is among the missing.

"Say a prayer from the deepest corner of your hearts that they all come out safe," said Rehman, a native Kenyan.

The service lasted more than an hour and moved through a dozen faith communities, including Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism.

"This is a good opportunity to start with a common denominator, a basic goal, which is basically peace," said Roshan Shaikh, president of the mosque.

The Rev. Thomas Goodhue, executive director of the Long Island Council of Churches, said the event was a "great celebration of religious diversity."

"For a lot of people, just the idea of being in the room with people of other faiths is a new idea," he said. "It's part of the building of respect for one another."

People from all faiths followed the customs of the mosque, which called for shoes to be removed, for women to cover their heads with scarves and for men and women to sit separately.

Assemb. Phil Ramos (D-Brentwood) said the event promotes understanding between different religious groups.

"This mosque has always been a leader in promoting diversity and unity among the communities of faith," Ramos said. "Today's event demonstrates that spirit of brotherhood."

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