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Interfaith speakers stress tolerance, decry Islamic State violence

More than 100 people gathered Monday night for an interfaith call for tolerance.Calvary Episcopal Churchhosted the first event fortheCommunity Interfaith Dialogue on...

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Doug McGill, of Rochester, the founder and guiding teacher of the Rochester Meditation Center, explains the role of tolerance and patience in the Buddhist tradition Monday at the "Interfaith Call For Tolerance/ISIS is NOT Islam" gathering held in the courtyard of Calvary Episcopal Church in downtown Rochester.

More than 100 people gathered Monday night for an interfaith call for tolerance.

Calvary Episcopal Church hosted the first event for the Community Interfaith Dialogue on Islam. People from all walks of life listened as leaders of several religions spoke about the importance of diversity. Regina Mustafa helped organize the gathering to speak out against the murders, beheadings and forced conversions being committed by the terrorist group Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

On the lawn outside Calvary Episcopal, people heard calls for peace, understanding and knowledge by leaders and members of Rochester Franciscans of Assisi Heights , First Unitarian Universalist Church, B'nai Israel Synagogue , Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints , Rochester Meditation Center and Calvary Episcopal. After the presentations, many stayed another 30 minutes to speak with one another.

"This crowd really reflected what I always felt about the people of Rochester and the people of Minnesota. They are good people," Mustafa said. "The people here were very attentive and very friendly and encouraging, and that's typical of Rochester. You have the small amount of extremists. You have a small amount of people in the West that are feeding into the stereotypes of Islam, but I really do believe, despite the fact that people are saying the actions of ISIS are a step back to this dialogue, I remain positive about it."

Noor Asi, a Syrian Muslim woman who moved to Rochester two years ago to begin a research fellowship at the Mayo Clinic, said she was thrilled to see an interfaith event in Rochester. Asi, who sat next to her mother at the event, said most of her immediate family lives nearby. She said she has extended family in Syria, and she hopes and prays often that they remain safe.


"It's very important that we speak out against ISIS," Asi said. "They don't represent us as Muslims. … I was happy to see so many people here today. We need to let people know that ISIS does not represent us."

Asi said she hopes there will be more events in the future, but Mustafa said she hopes more events like Monday's interfaith gathering won't be necessary.

"I hope I don't have to put together such an address like this again," Mustafa said. "I hope that ISIS stops as soon as possible, but I know CIDI is going to be here to address these issues if they don't. We talk about it in our homes all of the time. We say that we are against ISIS. I just felt we needed something formal."

In putting together Monday's event, Mustafa spoke with several faith groups in Rochester. Along with the six people who did speak, Mustafa said many others offered as well, including local Hindus and Methodists. She said due to time constraints she limited the speakers to six "to make a nice, cohesive message."

The Rev. Carol Hepokoski, of  First Unitarian Universalist Church , said she was honored to speak at the interfaith event.

"I think many of us have been concerned about what is happening with ISIS, and we think about ways we as people of faith can denounce those atrocities and share with one another our aspirations for peace," Hepokoski said. "This was very affirming and a very positive thing for our community."

There were many Muslims in the crowd. Mustafa said the local Muslim community has been very supportive of Monday night's Interfaith Call for Tolerance.

"We have seen a lot of support from the Rochester Muslim community circle," she said. "They are saying, 'Yes we are glad that you organized this. We don't want people to believe that because we didn't organize something that we didn't feel that way.' I truly believe this is the best country in the world to be a Muslim."


More information can be found at www.cidimn.org.

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