LBPD creates a forum among religions.
By Tracy Manzer, Staff writer
Long Beach Press Telegram
LONG BEACH - Close to 20 area religious leaders representing the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths met earlier this week to discuss ways in which the groups can support one another and promote peace.
A horrific shooting at the Jewish Federation Offices in Seattle in July that resulted in one death and five injured, as well as recent attacks at San Diego mosques, prompted leaders in the Long Beach Police Department to call the meeting, said Lt. Joe Levy.
The forum was hosted by the Long Beach Police Department and sponsored by the National Conference for Community and Justice of Southern California, the South Coast Interfaith Council, the City of Long Beach Human Dignity Program and the police department, Levy said.
"We've found that whenever we have had incidents like those in Seattle or San Diego, it generates a lot of fear in the Jewish community and the Muslim community," the lieutenant said. "We wanted to take a proactive stance on the issue. ... We thought the best way to calm any fears and to have all the communities work together to ensure their safety was to hold the meeting."
Members of the NCCJ and police department chose about 20 leaders from among the three religious communities, but hope to invite more clergy in future sessions, Levy said.
The first meeting was dedicated to establishing communication among the various faiths and working out a plan to maintain a safe community for members of all the religions. They also discussed ways to demonstrate support for one another, Levy said.
"At the end, the consensus seemed to be that we need to continue to open the lines of communication and improve dialogue," Levy said. "By doing that, we can come up with ways to support one another and ensure safety for all faiths in our community."
Those who attended the first meeting described it as a good first step and said they looked forward to future events.
"My hope is that six months from now, there is going to be this really dynamic faith-based conversation taking place where we're learning more about each others' faith and learning about the commonalities that we do share," said Rabbi Mark Goldfarb of Temple Israel.
The rabbi and others agreed that while conflicts in other areas of the world have made it difficult at times for members of the three religions to come together, Tuesday's meeting was free of any political agendas.
Having the session at the police department made it easier, most said, because it was neutral ground for all involved.
Those who participated all said the fact that the meetings were called prior to any local tragedy or violence was an important and positive sign.
"The unique aspect of this meeting, from our point of view, is that it did not come from a negative reaction but rather as a proactive approach to strengthening relationships among people of all faith groups in Long Beach," said Hussam Ayloush, the executive director of the Southern California office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
"We are working together to eliminate potential misperceptions, disagreements or maybe the impact of the current atmosphere of war, ... and we're looking at a preventative measure to ensure that the conflict overseas does not spill over into our local communities," Ayloush said.
It is not known when the group will convene again, but all those interviewed by the Press-Telegram pledged to continue with the inter-faith dialogue.
"It took a while to get everybody's schedule open for the first meeting, but it was definitely worthwhile," Ayloush said. "Everybody came out feeling very positive, energized and hopeful. Many of us at the end wondered, `Why did it take so long to come up with such a great idea?"'
Tracy Manzer can be reached at tracy.manzer@presstele
gram.com or (562) 499-1261.
- Hussam Ayloush
- Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html