KINGMAN - Tolerance is the antonym to prejudice, and four local faith leaders are uniting to bear witness to prejudice based on faith and to coming together as one community.
Father Philip Shaw of Trinity Episcopal Church, Imam Umar Farooq Mahmood of the Masjid Ibrahim Mosque, Father Leonard Walker of Divine Savior Catholic Church, and Pastor Ray Christenson of Grace Lutheran have been meeting informally once a month for the last four years. Christenson calls the group a "ministerial association."
"We are like-minded clergy finding ways to build reconciliation among the people in Kingman," said Christenson. "All four of us share a similar perspective of the world."
The faith leaders will be hosting a joint service of peace and unity at 6 p.m. on Jan. 8 at Trinity Episcopal Church, 423 E. Spring St. in Kingman. At the service, scriptures will be read from the Quran and the Bible, as well as prayers from all four leaders. Immediately following, a potluck supper will be held and the different faith communities present will be available for informal discussion on their faith.
Peace is the primary focus of the service. The clergymen recognize that, with events taking place over the last few years, public sentiment and prejudice has drawn lines between communities of faith, especially between Christianity and Islam.
"It's important to all of us in the world to realize that the people of faith are people of faith," said Shaw. "Every little branch of that has radicals that do disservice to the name. These are people that do horrible things under the guise of faith."
"We sometimes forget our history," said Mahmood. "Muslims have lived here in Kingman for decades. They have done nothing but serve this community. There are Muslims in the army, protecting their country - America.
"We must be very open-minded about what true Islam is, and it's why we are getting together. We have nothing against other religions. We respect them, and we need to let people know," he said.
While public anti-Muslim rhetoric has been fairly limited to online groups on the local level, Mahmood has experienced prejudice as a Muslim here in Kingman. A notable example, according to both Mahmood and Father Walker, was when members of the community distributed flyers condemning Islam to cars parked at events at the fairgrounds. The flyers contained a photo taken by the Kingman Daily Miner of Mahmood from an article dating back to April.
"We all know the fear is out there," said Shaw. "We see it expressed in many different ways. But it is fear that is based off of a foundation of ignorance. If we can move the conversation away from ignorance, we can pull back the fear also."
"The political environment has certainly incited fear," added Walker. "They are saying that we are under attack. The only way to fight that is to act in faith, and to act in faith is to come together in prayer.
"The opposite of faith is fear. Fear is the opposite of faith. That's what we want to express. As people of faith, we oppose fear. We oppose fear mongering. There is no reason to be afraid of our brothers and sisters."
The clergymen hope to make this a regular service, to the point where Muslims and Christians can celebrate their faiths together without garnering media attention.
The service is open to the public. For more information, contact the Grace Lutheran Church front office at 928-753-3068.
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