BY JAMES FARRELL
The Queens community turned out to bask in messages of tolerance and peace last week during an interfaith service at the Hindu Temple Society of North America’s Flushing headquarters.
Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Hindu leaders led the prayer service in front of hundreds of borough residents in a packed auditorium on March 2—where people of all faiths filled the seats and a slew of city police officers stood along the walls. The service was sponsored by the NYPD’s Patrol Borough Queens North and Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, and was a display of unity between Queens’ diverse population and the officers who serve it.
“The purpose of this interfaith service is to reaffirm that we are all gathered here today as a united group, and that we as a community and the police will stand together for peace and hope,” said Dr. Uma Mysorekar, of the Hindu Temple Society of North America, in her opening remarks.
Mysorekar also spoke of the important role that interfaith services play in religious dialogue and the importance of acceptance to prevent discrimination or hate based on appearance or belief.
“Interfaith dialogues result in deepening of our own faiths,” she said. “This service reflects everyone’s commitment to work together to build a more peaceful city.”
The service began with a performance by the Newtown High School Guitarists. There was also a musical interlude by soprano singer Soohyun Oh.
Among the speakers were representatives from the Sikh Cultural Society, United Sikhs, Albanian American Islamic Center of Queens, Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, St. Kevin Roman Catholic Church, Mount Horeb Baptist Church and others.
Rabbi Diana Gerson, of the New York Board of Rabbis, also spoke and sought to foster a friendly environment from the beginning of the service, asking that all assembled introduce themselves to the people sitting around them. That led to a buzz of activity across the auditorium.
“Now, there are no strangers amongst us,” she said.
Faith leaders also complimented the NYPD for its work in the community.
“The men and women who have come here today to organize this is a group that many times we only recognize when they come to help us, but every day, they are here to protect us,” said Father John Vesey, of Saint Michael’s Church.
Commissioner Marco Carrion, of the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, also referenced the political climate— especially regarding the issues of police-community relationships and the debates on immigration swirling since the 2016 presidential campaign.
“As we all know, we are at a crucial moment in our nation’s history,” he said. “Relations between law enforcement officials and communities are more fragile than they have been in generations. Latino, Muslim and immigrant communities are in a great deal of anxiety as they have become vulnerable to recent executive orders and federal immigration enforcement. At this challenging time, the mayor wants to make sure that our local law enforcement officials are continuing to build trust in New York City communities.”
He also added that the NYPD would not do the work of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which drew applause, and he praised the NYPD for its work in keeping New York’s crime rates low.
Assistant Chief Juanita Holmes, of the NYPD’s Patrol Borough Queens North, also praised Queens’ diverse population.
“It’s those diversities that should strengthen us, not divide us,” she said. “When we lose the right to be different, we lose the right to be free. Tonight, regardless of our faith, we are gathered here together in harmony for the need of spiritual healing and for peace.”
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @farrellj329.