The Belleville Mosque & Islamic Education Center had a multi-faith appreciation dinner Sunday night.
The event, the mosque’s fourth annual, drew a variety of community and religious leaders who spoke about the similarities between the world’s major religions, interfaith dialogue and their perspectives on justice in light of recent vandalism against a Jewish cemetery in University City, Mo.
“(Interfaith) is an interaction of people of different faith and non-faith traditions in a cooperative manner,” said Dr. M.G. Kibria, who teaches at SWIC. “Interfaith can be as simple as spending time with people from a diverse background or as complicated as working on solving difficult issues together.”
“Peace is not simply a lack of conflict,” Kibria said. “It is a powerful, active force. We all should make sure we are heard.”
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Underscoring the message of peace and justice was Associate Judge Heinz Rudolf of the 20th Circuit, who extended the support of his colleagues and institution.
“When you come into court, regardless of your religion, your background, your faith — whoever you are — rich, poor — that shouldn’t mean anything,” he said. “You should be able come into the courtroom, and should feel at peace. You should feel that you are going to be heard that day, that there is an opportunity to be heard.”
The Metro East Interfaith Partnership, which put on the event, was founded in 2002 after the Sept. 11 attacks when a Catholic woman wedged a note under the door of the mosque, according to the organization. The woman wanted to dispel false ideas about Islam, and today, the Interfaith Partnership is comprised of a half-dozen religious groups, including Islam, Christianity, Judaism, the Bahá’í faith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and Religious Science.
The keynote speaker at Sunday night’s gathering was the Rev. Lana Gilbert, a minister at the Church of Christ and a member of the Interfaith Partnership, who spoke about Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, where vandals knocked over almost 200 headstones.
“A fundraiser for the vandalized Jewish cemetery is a strong message of unity,” she said, adding that the Muslim-Americans who set a $20,000 goal to clean up the cemetery met it within three hours and collected more than $60,000.
“When people of all faith traditions stand up for each other, it makes our communities stronger and lets the healing begin,” she said.