SARASOTA — A woman with a hijab sat next to a man with a yarmulke listening to a Presbyterian pastor speak about love, peace and unity.
As they bowed their heads in prayer Saturday night at the Interfaith Service of Understanding and Peace at the First Presbyterian Church, the message was clear. No matter how you say it, shalom or salaam, it all means peace.
“It was beautiful, it brought together people of all faiths. We have more in common than we do differences,” said Gloria Schiner, 75, who is Jewish.
The people who gathered sought to recreate the feeling of unity felt among Americans after the 9/11 terrorist attacks nine years ago. They sang songs. They simply spoke to one another.
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There was much talk about Gainesville pastor Terry Jones, who had scheduled, then cancelled, a Quran burning for Saturday.
Imam Tarik Al Bouri, of the Islamic Center of Sarasota-Bradenton, mentioned it in his speech.
“In the Quran, the word ‘Jesus’ is mentioned 25 times, the word ‘Muhammad’ five. So if he burned the Quran, he is burning more of Jesus,” the imam said.
He went on to say a Muslim is not a Muslim if he does not recognize Judaism and Christianity, and that all people are one in the eyes on Allah, God in Arabic.
Rabbi Geoff Huntting, of Temple Sinai in Sarasota, agreed.
He said people need to move toward love and understanding, not simply tolerance.
“When was the last time you tolerated something you loved? When was the last time you embraced what you just tolerated?” he said, in a sermon focusing on peace and the means to go about obtaining it.
“Peace is something so beautiful,” he said.
At the conclusion of the event, prayers were said in all languages.
Wendy Kelly, a Christian from Sarasota, left with a feeling of peace.
“I’ve had this in my heart for months now. As I sat there and I saw Muslim, Christian, Jew all sitting in a row, I felt connected to them all,” said Kelly, 44.
She plans on visiting a mosque in the near future.
“It’s important that we get together like this,” she said, adding that Jesus spoke of peace and loving thy neighbor, a feeling she hopes will be carried on.