Over 100 Lawmakers, Community Leaders Attend Interfaith Observance At Capitol
October 5, 2006
By FRANCES GRANDY TAYLOR, Courant Staff Writer
The Muslim call to prayer echoed in the marble atrium of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford as the sun was setting Wednesday. In celebration of the holy month of Ramadan, more than a hundred legislators and community and religious leaders gathered for an interfaith observance.
It was the first iftar - a festive meal that breaks the daily Ramadan fast - to be held at the state Capitol.
As the prayers ended and Sufi musicians prepared to play, the aroma of spicy Turkish food wafted through atrium hall. For many in attendance it was their first iftar.
"It's wonderful. I hope this is the first of many more - I've learned a lot," said Rep. Faith McMahon, D-Bloomfield. "The principles are the same in all religions. I think this helps people become more aware of that."
Laura Zimmerman, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, also said she welcomed the opportunity of her first iftar. "We need these kinds of occasions to open up dialogue. When we meet face to face like this it becomes easier to talk, because we're not strangers."
Before the meal, Jewish and Christian prayers were offered by Yeheskel Landau and Carl Dudley, both of Hartford Seminary. "Anywhere that peace and justice is being practiced is where I want to be," Rep. Eric Coleman, D-Bloomfield, said during his remarks to the crowd.
Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez welcomed the gathering to Hartford. "We appreciate the opportunity to share your religion and culture," he said. "Bringing us together to learn about and celebrate our differences makes us stronger.
Approximately 150,000 Muslims live in the state, and many representing mosques and organizations from Greater Hartford attended Wednesday. The event was sponsored by the Harmony Foundation, a Muslim organization based in Hartford.
Dr. Reza Mansoor, president of the Muslim Association of Connecticut, said he hoped such events "bridge the gap between the perception of what Islam is, and what it really is."
"Our division can be our strength or our weakness, depending on what we do with it," Mansoor said.
Abdullah Antepli, who founded the Harmony Foundation three years ago, said those with moderate views - the majority of Jews, Muslims and Christians - need to speak out to be heard over the voices of extremism.
"We must be more vocal and more active. The majority can no longer be silent," he said. "We must take this opportunity to come together at the same table, with mutual understanding and commonly shared dreams."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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