Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Religious Leaders Seek Common Ground on 9/11; Have People 'Grown Stronger at the Broken Places'? One Panelist Asks

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Religious Leaders Seek Common Ground on 9/11; Have People 'Grown Stronger at the Broken Places'? One Panelist Asks

Article excerpt

Byline: David Bauerlein

In a meeting room of the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida, religious leaders of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths reflected Sunday on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 by talking about the need for finding common ground in spite of violence done in the name of religion.

Attended by about 35 people, the panel discussion often led to mutual disagreement as speakers criticized "media sensationalism" and talk show hosts for shaping people's opinions. Organizers said such discussions in small groups and within families offer a way to cut through misunderstandings.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for dialogue, for understanding and just coming together as a community," said program co-chairwoman Nancy O'Byrne of the Catholic Diocesan Justice and Peace Coalition and Pax Christi Northeast Florida.

"Regardless of the language we use, we all seek divine peace," said fellow program co- chairman Ashraf Shaikh of the Islamic Center.

The four panelists were Imam Joe Bradford of the Islamic Center, the Rev. John Gillespie of San Sebastian Catholic Church in St. Augustine, Rabbi Jonathan Lubliner of the Jacksonville Jewish Center, and the Rev. Nancee Martin-Coffey of St. George Episcopal Church in Jacksonville.

Bradford said 9/11 offended Muslims because the attackers used "the name of faith" to spread their personal messages. But he said in the aftermath of the attack, Muslims also were heartened when people outside their faith community offered words of support.

"We were horrified [by the attack] and at the same time, delighted to find so many good friends and neighbors," he said.

Lubliner, who was in New Jersey at the time of the attacks, said 9/11 showed terrorism isn't just something that happens "on the other side of the ocean." He said he worries the impact of the attack caused some to fall back on stereotypes and embrace witch hunt-style condemnations.

"There is a vulnerability for prejudice and stereotyping, particularly of the Muslim community, that is very troubling to me," he said. …

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