Catholic Charities lined up with UJA Federation New York and other faith communities in a human chain outside the Islamic Center at NYU as a sign of solidarity with Muslims March 22.
The ring of peace gathering occurred a week after massacres at two mosques in New Zealand claimed 50 lives and injured dozens in one of the most catastrophic mass shootings in that country’s history.
Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities, spoke with CNY before the rally began early Friday afternoon.
“In the middle of a workday, people have come here to express their solidarity at the time when a holy weekend begins…Friday is a day when our Muslim brothers and sisters gather in prayer, Saturday is the day when our Jewish sisters and brothers” do the same, “and Christians gather on Sunday.”
“It is always a holy weekend,” Msgr. Sullivan said. “And so, we stand in solidarity. For us as Christians, today being a Lenten Friday, is particularly important that we stand together with our sisters and brothers.”
Loubna Anaki, 34, a journalist who is Muslim, also spoke with CNY before she headed indoors to the Islamic Center for scheduled prayer, as she does every Friday. For her, the gathering outdoors provided a sign of hope. “Every day, we see bad news on the news—wars, famine, poverty, hate, violence. We wonder sometimes, is there any love left in this world? Any emotions, empathy? When we see this, it gives us hope.”
Ms. Anaki said she feels safe at the Islamic Center “and I want to be here even more than before.”
Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis, was also present. “If you look around here today, most of the people here are non-Muslims, and they’re standing in front of the Islamic Center. What does that say? That we need to protect one other,” he told CNY.
“People stood with us after Pittsburgh,” Rabbi Potasnik said of the Oct. 27, 2018, attack at Tree of Life Synagogue in that city that killed 11 and injured six others. “We need to stand with others after New Zealand. And, Christians were killed in Nigeria. We need to stand with Christian leaders to say, ‘You belong to us, we belong to you.’ We are all connected to one another. We all have the same spiritual birth certificate.”
John Albanese, 73, a member of St. Francis Xavier parish in Manhattan, hoped the peace rally would help him process what happened abroad. “Those people were shot down—I understand intellectually what the gunman said, but I don’t understand it emotionally, and emotionally I need to be here.”
Eric S. Goldstein, CEO of UJA Federation New York, said the assembly was an important step. “Beyond showing up at these kinds of events, we need think about as community” how to come together “to figure out what are the real root causes of this hatred, and what we can do across faiths to combat it together...The notion that we can address this by ourselves is wrong. This is not a Jewish problem…not a Muslim problem…not a Catholic problem. It’s a hatred problem.”
Brother Charles Trebino, O.F.M., pastoral associate at St. Anthony of Padua parish in Manhattan, said, “We’re in solidarity,” noting, St. Francis “always had a place in the Middle East. There’s always been relations with the whole Middle East, and I just stand with our brothers.”
The line of participants stretched across the front of the building of the Islamic Center, which also houses the Catholic Center at NYU, and wound its way partly on the left and right sides from there. One woman with two dogs at her side held their leashes in her left hand and a poster of solidarity in her right hand.
Sister Maryanne Fernandes, R.M.I., and Sister Clara Echeverria, R.M.I., whose order, Religious of Mary Immaculate, runs Centro Maria, a residence in Manhattan for students and working young women, attended the peace rally with two residents.
Sister Maryanne, superior of Centro Maria, said, “In the world, the amount of strife that’s going on today, it affects us…This is the little that we can do…All of us are children of one God, one Father.”
Ana Ramirez, 28, one of the Centro Maria residents, said she was thinking about her close Muslim friends and “to see all the different religions just coming together” underscored “love” for “one cause.”