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Muslims, Jews, other faiths gather, pray for peace

Speakers from several denominations addressed the crowd at the Gazebo. Photos by Dave Wallis / The Forum

A culturally diverse array of people came together Sunday morning for a single cause – to pray for peace in the Middle East and around the world.

“It’s important for the Fargo-Moorhead community to realize we can come together for a common cause,” said Sana Ali, one of the organizers. “There’s only so much we can do from here, but we can start with prayer… I hope everyone realizes that while we may not pray in the same way, we pray for the same thing – peace.”

Ali, a Muslim, was moved to organize Sunday’s peace vigil in Island Park over the past week as a reaction to the escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza.

She and other organizers did not want the Fargo gathering to be a political event, but rather a gathering of different faiths. Representatives from Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Lutheran and Catholic faiths all shared a prayer under a banner that read, “We stand for peace.”

“We have to be respectful for humanity and human dignity and support peace,” said Waseem Altaf, a member of Fargo’s Human Relations Commission. He said the goal was to raise awareness, that “blood is blood.”

“As a Jew, I want you to know how deeply I mourn the lives of all Palestinians, who I consider my brothers and sisters,” said David Myers, executive director of Interfaith Projects, one of the first speakers.

“Many who have spoken here today have expressed that we are all children of God, even if we express it in different ways,” said Pastor Sue Koesterman from Elim Lutheran Church in Fargo.

After the event, Koesterman was talking to Mark Bourdon, representing the Buddhist faith.

“We understand we’re all children of God and God calls us to live in peace,” Koesterman said.

An organizer estimated around 220 people attended.

In the crowd, some children held pro-peace signs that read, “We’re all the same,” “No more orphans” and “Peace is the only battle worth waging.”

“It was very inspiring to see the diversity coming together to pray for peace,” said Ellen Mahli, who spoke with Cathy Schwinden, both from Nativity Catholic Church.

“It makes you realize what a wonderful community we live in. It fills me with hope,” Mahli said.