Naperville interfaith group holds solidarity event to condemn hate, promote unity

Group of speakers on state at Naperville interfaith group solidarity event
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On Sunday, Oct. 22, the Naperville Interfaith Leaders Association (NILA) held a “There is No Room for Hate” solidarity event at Benedictine University in Lisle.

The gathering was organized in response to acts of hate both locally and globally, including an alleged burning of the Quran by a Naperville student, the fatal stabbing of a Plainfield Muslim boy, and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

More than 300 turn out for solidarity event

More than 300 people showed up to Benedictine’s Goodwin Hall for the event. Six different faith leaders along with U.S. Rep. Bill Foster and other officials spoke to the crowd, offering their own perspectives on how to unify and combat hate.

“Last fall, as I was pulling weeds in my garden, I missed a thistle and it had gone to seed. So next spring, as you can imagine, I had thistles all over my garden. And I think hatred is something like that. If we can stop hatred, (prune) it to its serious nature and help people learn… We’ve prevented a lot of hatred that may get out of control like those thistles in my garden,” said Rev. Dr. Lynn Pries – Retired United Methodist pastor and current president of Naperville Interfaith Leaders Association. 

Area leaders stress need for tolerance and togetherness

Leaders of local religious groups spoke out about the need for tolerance, and togetherness.

“All of these horrific acts of hate are impacting all of our communities. It is unacceptable that anyone be targeted as outlets for individuals, who hate, terrorize and who want to inflict harm. It is not merely time to watch. It is time for all of us to act to end this crisis and bring peace to the world,” said Sharan Kaur Singh, Representative of the Sikh Community.

Rabbi David Eber of Congregation Beth Shalom talked about how the Muslim community stood by his congregation after several acts of violence against Jewish people at various spots across the country. He said his congregation in turn is here to stand up against hatred against Muslims.

“We find a way to show that our relationship is strong and that we can be a model for other communities, of how religious difference and political disagreement may not mean discord, but can mean solidarity across difference,” said Eber.

Iman Rizan Ali, Senior Iman and Religious Director of the Islamic Center of Naperville, said it’s important to lead by example, and take a higher road when responding to hateful acts.

“Another responsibility that we have is to address our own communities collectively that we should not respond and we cannot respond to hate with hate. We cannot respond to ignorance with ignorance. We cannot stereotype, nor can we generalize. If we do that, we are part of the problem and all of us need to be part of the solution. We must work together to educate and eradicate hate,” said Ali.

Inclusivity part of the Naperville mission statement

Naperville City Councilman Benny White noted that the city of Naperville has wording in its mission statement saying that it is “an inclusive community that values diversity.” The city continues to demonstrate that attitude, he said, through a number of policies and placements.

“We have for the very first time a DEI manager for the city of Naperville. It’s in our mission statement. We can create policy around it. See where I’m going with that? We’ve taken our Fair Housing Commission, and now it is the Human Rights and Fair Housing Commission. So if someone is discriminating at a particular business, there’s an avenue in which they can go to,” White said.

Tom Cordaro, member of PAX Christi Illinois, Retired Justice and Outreach Minister of St. Margaret Mary Catholic Parish, told those gathered that their very presence was a positive sign in creating a more inclusive community.

“At times like this, it can seem as if madness has overtaken the entire world. But our gathering here today is proof that another world is possible,” said Codaro.

The full program is available to view on the NCTV17 Community Events page.

Photo courtesy: NILA. (l. to r. featured speakers: Congressman Bill Foster, 11th Congressional District; Tom Cordaro, member Pax Christi Illinois; Rev. Lynn Pries, NILA President; Rabbi David Eber, Congregation Beth Shalom-Naperville; Imam Rizwan Ali, Senior Imam & Religious Director, Islamic Center of Naperville; Dr. Benny White, Naperville city councilman; Rev. Megan Dean Tobola, lead pastor Wesley United Methodist Church; Meena Banasiak, Hindu community member; Sharan Kaur Singh, Sikh community representative

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