Interfaith service: a building block for peace

Barb Arland-Fye
Leaders from faith communities in the Quad-Cities area sing during the Interfaith Gathering of Prayers for Peace Dec. 12 at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Davenport.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Dots of light twinkled throughout the darkened nave of St. Paul Lutheran Church as participants waved their illuminated cellphones during an Interfaith Gathering of Prayers for Peace on Dec. 12. The light symbolized the hope of peace they seek to bring to a world struggling with war and hatred.

Following that symbolic gesture, Rabbi Emeritus Henry Karp read from “Why Hope?” an essay by Yisrael Rutman, an author who teaches Jewish studies in Israel. “… God created the day to follow the night to teach us that there is always something good to look forward to, something to live for. No matter how bad the night, the sun always rises…. God has imbued each one of us with a sensitivity to the possibilities that every single day carries with it. We know there is always hope, no matter how dark the night.”

Rabbi Karp was among leaders from 11 faith communities in the Quad-Cities area who shared prayers, song, Scripture and brief reflections with the gathering to model what interfaith community and solidarity can look like. The faith communities they represented are Baha’i, Baptist, Buddhist, Evangelical Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Metropolitan Community Church of the Quad Cities, Muslim, Native American, Roman Catholic and Unitarian Universalist. Four of the presenters have a connection to the Diocese of Davenport.


“None of us has the process for peace down cold,” said the Rev. Peter Pettit, the teaching pastor for St. Paul Lutheran Church in welcoming remarks. The gathering is an opportunity for “a taste of peace,” he said. The themes of compassion, healing, respect, restoration, unity and hope anchored the faith representatives’ prayers, Scripture, songs and readings.

Deacon Kent Ferris and Gale Francione, representing the Davenport Diocese, read a prayer from “Fratelli Tutti,” the third encyclical of Pope Francis, on fraternity and social friendship:

“All Loving One, Creator of our human family, you made all human beings equal in dignity: pour forth into our hearts a spirit of tenderness and inspire in us a dream of renewed encounter, dialogue, justice and peace. Move us to create healthier societies and a more dignified world, a world without hunger, poverty, violence and war. May our hearts be open to all the peoples and nations of the earth. May we recognize the goodness and beauty that you have sown in each of us, and thus forge bonds of unity, common projects, and shared dreams. Amen.”

Two other presenters, Lisa Killinger and Gail Karp are friends and recipients of the “One Among Us” award of the interfaith Pacem in Terris Coalition, which the Davenport Diocese oversees. Gail Karp, a retired cantor and wife of Rabbi Karp, played the guitar and led the gathering in singing “Light One Candle.”

Killinger, outreach coordinator for the Muslim Community of the Quad Cities in Bettendorf, read a passage from the Holy Qur’an: “For every one of you God has appointed a law and a Way. Had it been so willed, God could have made all of you one faith community, but God willed otherwise, in order to test you in what has been given to you. Vie then, with one another, in doing good works. Unto God you must all return, and then, God will tell you the Truth about which you used to differ” (5:48).

“Peace is communal,” the Rev. Rich Hendricks of Metropolitan Community Church of the Quad Cities, said, inviting everyone to turn to the neighbor in their pew to share a memory of “a time in your life when you experienced a deeply felt sense of peace.”

Imam Bachir Djehiche of the Islamic Center of the Quad Cities in Moline, Illinois prayed and chanted a passage from the Holy Qur’an. He concluded with, “O Humankind, God has created you all … and has made you into nations and tribes so that you may identify with one another (not so that you would quarrel among yourselves).”

Rabbi Linda Bertenthal of Temple Emanuel and Congregation of Beth Israel, Davenport, shared a reflection on Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, celebrated this year from Dec. 7-15, and lit the eight candles on a menorah that she brought for the gathering.

Leaders of the participating faith communities came together in the sanctuary to lead the gathering in singing “Peace, Salaam, Shalom,” to conclude the prayer service. “For this moment in time, all is right with the world,” Hendricks said afterwards. “We are grounded in peace, hope and love.”

“It felt to me like a very loving and welcoming event,” Killinger said. “What I personally experienced was a great sense of peace.” “It’s important to build peace-seeking communities together,” Rabbi Bertenthal said. The gathering was an opportunity to “bring us together to build up that intentionality.”

“There is a deep hunger for peace among many people, who appreciate having a venue in which they can express that hunger through prayers, reflection, and shared community,” Rev. Pettit said. “Peace transcends politics and strategy; too often, the focus on those things can actually hinder the movement toward peace.”

“Religious identity and convictions can be a foundation for coming together around shared concerns. We know about the ‘wars of religion’ and the ways in which we can use our religion to exclude or condemn; it is important to remember and embody the commonality we find in acknowledging a reality that transcends each of our individual experiences,” Rev. Pettit continued. “I was particularly moved by the recitation of the Qur’an by Imam Djehiche, whose voice and focus allowed me simply to close my eyes and be carried along and into a peaceful place by the recitation.”

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