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Interfaith service seeks understanding


As part of a national initiative to combat anti-Muslim bigotry, representatives of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths will give readings from their sacred texts and offer prayers under the same roof during a special service tomorrow.

The Episcopal Diocese of Hawaii is hosting the first “Faith Shared: Uniting in Prayer and Understanding” service at St. Andrew’s Cathedral at 5:30 p.m.

The initiative, co-sponsored by the national Interfaith Alliance and Human Rights First, was prompted by violence and verbal abuse against Muslims in the U.S., portrayed for months in the national media, said Cecilia Fordham, Episcopal coordinator of the event.

She said followers of Judaism, Christianity and Islam should be reminded that they actually have a lot in common, as all are “Abrahamic” religions that trace their origins to the Jewish patriarch Abraham. Readings from the Torah, Bible and Quran will be accompanied by music of each religion. People of all faiths, or those with no faith at all, are invited to come, Fordham said.

“The planners hope the service helps us all, as communities of faith, prepare for the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, support religious liberty in this nation and uphold a long-standing tradition of tolerance and pluralism,” she said.

Speakers include Ismail El-Sheikh, imam of the Muslim Association of Hawaii; Lorraine Gershun of Temple Emmanu-El Honolulu (on behalf of Rabbi Peter Schaktman, who will be out of town); Bishop Robert Fitzpatrick, head of the Episcopal

Diocese; and John Heidel, president of the Interfaith Alliance Hawaii.

“Given the amount of misunderstanding and mistrust among some people of faith, we are hoping this interfaith service of worship will express the presence of a new era of mutual acceptance and cooperation,” Heidel said.

On behalf of the Episcopal Diocese, Fitzpatrick said he immediately responded to the Faith Shared invitation because “it is necessary to have a witness to live pono (justly and harmoniously) and not engage in the rhetoric of violence, separation and hate.”

Fitzpatrick said event planners “made sure to have appropriate representatives (of each faith) do nothing offensive to other faiths and, at the same time, respect each other’s core identity. Each will offer traditional prayers of their faith communities. In other words, we’re not asking anybody to not be who they are.”

Houses of worship in 32 states and the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., are holding such interfaith services.

According to a press release from, the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the national Interfaith Alliance, said, ”The scriptures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share in encouragement ‘to live in love, by law, with prayer, and in the practice of charity.’ Unfortunately, specific passages in each tradition can be and have been ripped from their historical/scriptural context and manipulated to promote division, nurture hatred, and even inspire violence.”

Music accompanying Scripture readings will be coordinated by John Renke of St. Andrew’s. Performances will include “Chant for the Universe,” narrated by Terence Knapp, professor emeritus at the University of Hawaii. 

The service will open with a prayer and chant in Hawaiian and the “Queen’s Prayer,” a song written by Queen Liliuokalani. It will conclude with a reception, hosted by the local Interfaith Alliance board.

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