The unity among Bartholomew County’s multi-faith community was revealed by the Rev. Clem Davis on Sunday, who talked about how he heard about the terrorist bombing of Christians, a religious minority, at Easter Sunday services in Sri Lanka last week.
The pastor of St. Bartholomew Catholic Church said he received an email from Zukifly Yusuf of the Islamic Society of Columbus Indiana expressing heartfelt sorrow at the death of 253 people and more than 500 injured at various Christian churches, many of them Catholic.
Yusuf and Davis formed a friendship during a Christian-Muslim dialogue panel several years ago, after Muslim-oriented graffiti was found spray-painted on three local churches, including St. Bartholomew’s.
Davis mentioned all this in his remarks among the comments of other faith leaders and Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop at a memorial service at North Christian Church in Columbus for the victims in Sri Lanka. Easter lilies, a sign of new life at Easter, still graced the sanctuary from the previous weekend.
[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]Click here to purchase photos from this gallery
“The only answer to this tragedy is for more and more people to find and nurture friendships beyond their own, immediate circle,” Davis said, who acknowledged that he grew up “in a bubble “ — a homogeneous neighborhood near Chicago.
About 150 people — Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and Unitarians — gathered at the service to silently light candles for the victims (some as young as 11 months old), to offer words of comfort and unity and to more firmly resolve that local people of faith will stand united not just to tolerate differences, but to show love amid common ground and friendship.
Part of that resolve was shown near the end of the service. David Carlson, a Franklin College professor of philosophy and religion, and one who launched unity-oriented Shoulder to Shoulder services in Columbus seven years ago, had attendees stand in a circle shoulder to shoulder. Some held hands.
And then he had them state “with one voice” their opposition to religious violence, hatred and intolerance.
Among those was Lalith “Guy” Paranavitana, a native of Sri Lanka who moved to Columbus about 30 years ago. Paranavitana, well known here as a singer, acknowledged that he was stunned by the bombings, since he never had seen any religious unrest in his younger years in the country known for a mix of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity.
“We all know today that religion gets hijacked (in the name of violence),” Paranavitana said.
The line was significant, since several speakers had said the same. And therein lay some of the power of the gathering — that different speakers of different faiths and backgrounds, without enough time to compare notes beforehand, spoke much of the same message– a message that in a fractured and sometimes angry world of wars, all faiths make room for diversity and for love.
Lesley Reuter of the local Sha’arei Shalom Jewish Congregation, quoted sacred text from a series of differing religions bound by strong edicts to love others and abhor violence and killing.
Those who attended also mentioned four victims, including one death, from Saturday’s synagogue shooting in San Diego, California.
And speakers such as the Rev. Elizabeth Kirkpatrick, pastor at Fairlawn Presbyterian Church in Columbus, spoke of the rich diversity of her local neighborhood known as Shadow Creek Farm on the city’s west side. Her immediate neighbors include those who are Christian, Muslim, Hindu and a biracial couple.
She read from the book of John about a risen Jesus extending peace and wholeness to his disciples as they literally feared for their lives after his beating and crucifixion.
“We gather today not only to remember those who died amid a senseless act,” Kirkpatrick said, “but to show how we are a people of peace.”