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Published: Saturday, 8/5/2006

Prayer service seeks to bring Mideast peace

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR

As rockets continue to fall in Israel and Lebanon, a number of religious leaders are joining together in hopes of making a difference in the Middle East and perhaps in the Midwest as well.

The Toledo Catholic Diocese is sponsoring an interfaith prayer service Monday night at Christ the King Church with representatives from the Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu communities.

"People of faith have faith in the power of prayer," said the Rev. Mike Brown, pastor of Christ the King. "And then, locally, I think it shows our understanding that we have a level of respect and appreciation for one another here in the Toledo area that we would not want to lose or take for granted."

Scheduled to attend the service are Bishop Leonard Blair of the Toledo diocese; Imam Farooq Abo-Elzahab of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo; Rabbi Barry Leff of Congregation B'nai Israel; Cantor Jen Roher of the Temple-Shomer Emunim; the Rev. Rae Lynn Schleif, superintendent of the United Methodist Church's Maumee Watershed District; Ziad Hummos of the Masjid Saad, and Ravi Joshi of the Hindu Temple of Toledo.

Bishop Blair will welcome people and lead an inclusive opening prayer, Father Brown said, after which leaders from four faith groups will say a prayer, offer a reflection, or read from their sacred texts on the topic of peace.

The idea for the interfaith service came from parishioners at Christ the King Parish, Father Brown said.

The Rev. Larry Clark, executive director of the Toledo Area Ministries and a United Methodist minister, said that although the prayer service was in response to the outbreak of violence between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, the participants are taking a broader view of the need for peace.

"There is recognition that we've got a number of places in the world, such as Sudan and Iraq, where there are terrible things happening," Mr. Clark said.

"So while our mind is turned in recent weeks to Israel and Lebanon, we have to keep in mind the whole broad spectrum of problems out there."

Mr. Hummos of the Masjid Saad, a mosque on Secor Road in West Toledo, said local Muslims are "very concerned" about the fighting in the Middle East. Television and newspaper reports showing civilian casualties in Lebanon are fueling anti-American sentiment overseas, he said.

"This is putting American Muslims in a very, very tense position," he said.

"I'm very worried about the future of Muslims in America. These extremists can ride the anger and I am scared we will have another stupid Sept. 11."

Jesse Torrence, 26, of Monclova, Ohio, who recently returned from a six-month assignment in Palestine, called the interfaith prayer service a "step in the right direction."

"Absolutely, because the alternative is for each of us to stay in our corners and point fingers at each other, and that doesn't get anything done," said Mr. Torrence, who taught Palestinians English and business practices while working for Amideast, an American nongovernmental organization.

He said he believes the three Abrahamic faiths - Jews, Muslims, and Christians - can find more common ground spiritually than politically.

"The political aspects are difficult but if we can discover our spiritual commonalities, it makes it easier to talk," he said.

Mr. Torrence, who was in Gaza when the fighting broke

out, said that from his observations there are more moderates in the Middle East than people may realize from news reports.

"There are extremists on all sides, but the majority of people are moderates and willing to make certain compromises," he said.

Since the fighting erupted, however, the extremists are boosting their propaganda campaigns and some who have held moderate positions are changing their stance.

"The war itself is damaging, but people who are moderates are moving to the extremes, and that is sad," said Mr. Torrence. He will give a presentation about his work in Palestine at 6 p.m. Aug. 13 at Heatherdowns Church of the Brethren, 3510 Schneider Rd.

The Interfaith Prayer Service for Peace and Justice will start at 7:30 p.m. Monday in Christ the King Catholic Church, 4100 Harvest Lane. Information: 419-244-6711.

Contact David Yonke at

dyonke@theblade.com or

419-724-6154



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