Central New Yorkers of many faiths come together Sunday for World Interfaith Harmony Assembly

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Published: Monday, January 30, 2012, 2:00 AM
By The Post-Standard

Editor’s note: This story was written by contributin writer Julie McMahon
Syracuse, NY — The theme of Sunday night’s World Interfaith Harmony Assembly was simple. “We can live in harmony,” were the words of an original song by Joan Hillsman, director of Syracuse’s chapter of the Gospel Music Workshop of America.

“Sing it to your neighbor,” Hillsman called out, and the audience of diverse religious backgrounds complied, smiling.

“Unity is what we’re striving for,” said Sister Pat Bergan, of St. Lucy’s Roman Catholic Church in Syracuse. “The more we can be together and celebrate, the richer we are,” she said.

In celebration of 2012 World Interfaith Harmony Week, Central New Yorkers of faiths spanning Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and others gathered together at Temple Concord in Syracuse. Rabbi of the synagogue, Daniel Fellman, hosted the celebration. It was organized by Interfaith Works CNY and Women Transcending Boundaries.

The evening’s presentations varied across groups. Some were vibrant and energetic acts, others were quiet reflections of values and practices in a religious tradition and many performances were given by young people.
A group of members of the Hindu faith, composed of refugees from Bhutan living in Syracuse, dressed in brightly colored outfits, sang a traditional hymn and danced.

“We see the goal of all religion is to reach enlightenment,” said Jai Subedi, a case worker for Interfaith Works CNY. “There is diversity in ways to reach a common goal,” he said.

Timothy Jennings-Bey spoke on behalf of the Moorish Society. The religious organization draws its faith from Islam and values civic duty, Jennings-Bey said. “Love, truth, peace, freedom and justice,” he said, are the pillars that guide unity in faith.

A small group of children of the Baha’i community of Syracuse exhibited their performance skills with songs, a rap-style rendition of a traditional prayer and recitations of prayers in Spanish and Persian. “Each community’s treasure is its children,” said one of their helpers, as the children made the crowd laugh.

At the end of the celebration, Hillsman invited representatives of each faith to take the stage together for another round of singing. “I’m sure now that you’ll agree,” she said, “this has been an example of harmony.”