MIDDLEBURG HEIGHTS, Ohio (WJW) – Their religious beliefs are diverse, but they gathered together for a common cause — peace and understanding.
As bombs and violent attacks continue in the Middle East, local religious leaders held a multi-faith service tonight to demonstrate a feeling of togetherness.
Prayers for peace from three different, yet similar, religious perspectives. Dozens attended an “Interfaith Service of Prayers for Peace” Tuesday evening at Middleburg Heights Community United Church of Christ.
“In the midst of this war, this abhorrent, horrific thing going on, this just felt like something that we needed to do and luckily my colleagues said, ‘yes, I’ll be a part of it,'” said church pastor Vicki McGaw.
Pastor McGaw reached out to leaders in local Jewish and Islamic communities, as the war in the Middle East rages on.
Israelis, Palestinians and other nationalities are counting the dead, injured and those being kept hostage.
“There are obviously feelings towards what’s happening, maybe even thoughts for what the right solution would be, and we’re not always going to agree on that, but I think one thing we can agree on is we’re all hurting and we all want to be able to support each other,” said Shaykh Musa Sugapong.
“If the three of us can come together and do this with members of our different faith congregations, maybe other groups can come together and do this and maybe if more and more, it ripples out and then we have peace,” said Rabbi Rachel Brown of Beth Israel – The West Temple in Cleveland.
Shaykh Sugapong, president of an Islamic education organization called Knowman Learning Academy in Middleburg Heights, says some students are impacted by the conflict.
Rabbi Brown says two friends have had children killed and another’s grandmother was taken hostage.
“If we are all truly created in God’s image, then we should be able to talk with each other and learn each other’s stories,” said Rabbi Brown.
“Sometimes we may look at Muslims and Christians and Jews as somehow being arch enemies or something like this and I don’t think that’s the case,” said Shaykh Sugapong.
Pastor McGaw says she will always remember something profound a Catholic priest told her while she visited the Middle East 15 years ago.
“If you come here for a week, you go home and write a book. If you come here for a month, you come home and write an article. If you come and stay a year, you don’t go home and say anything because peace in the Middle East is so complicated,” she said.