MANATEE — As the leader of a tiny Gainesville church canceled and then reconsidered a burning of the Quran, local religious leaders said Thursday they are still planning an interfaith service meant to denounce hate and to celebrate religious diversity.
The service is set for Saturday in Sarasota, coinciding with the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
It was originally designed as a counterpoint to plans advanced by the Rev. Terry Jones to hold an “International Burn-a-Koran Day,” which he abruptly called off Thursday, but then later reconsidered. The Quran is the Islamic faith’s most sacred text.
Those at Saturday’s service will address the widespread phobia aimed at Islam and its practitioners that is tolerated “from politicians to pundits,” said the Rev. Clay Thomas, associate pastor at Sarasota’s First Presbyterian Church and an organizer of the event.
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About 30 groups have signed on to participate locally, including Temple Sinai, a Jewish congregation; The Islamic Society of Sarasota and Bradenton, with Muslim membership; and First Presbyterian.
“He was not the only problem,” said Thomas, referring to Jones. “Our purpose is that we didn’t want to give him any more attention than he deserved; the fact the Pope and (Gen. David) Petraeus were talking about this clown, it’s just an indicator of a globalized world.
“When we planned it, we were intentionally trying to address the general problem of religious intolerance and violence in religion,” Thomas said. “In the scope of things, interfaith relations in the last 10 years — there’s a lot of healing and reconciliation and truth-seeking that needs to happen.”
The service will feature readings from the Quran, as well as the Bible and the Torah, said organizer Samir Khatib, spokesman for The Islamic Society of Sarasota and Bradenton.
“It’s to show cooperation and partnership, and acknowledgment of other religions of God,” he said. “It’s an important idea you’re putting out, the tolerance we need to bring an awareness between people of various faiths.”
The service is set for 7:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 2050 Oak St., Sarasota.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 745-7031.