Virginia congregation working for interfaith peace with Muslim friends
Written by Anthony Moujaes
September 6, 2013

Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ joined hands with a Muslim worship center in a suburb of Washington, D.C., on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 two years ago, to better understand the Muslim faith, dispel any prejudices and work for interfaith peace. This weekend, Rock Spring Congregational UCC will host an interfaith service with the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center once again as they share in worship, break bread, and walk together.

"What has been fantastic is we have developed a friendship in those years since," said Rock Spring Congregational senior pastor the Rev. Kathy Dwyer. "We're trying to move from education and understanding to sharing in service, to genuine friendship."

The two congregations will observe A Day for World Peace on Sunday, Sept. 8 with the interfaith worship service at the UCC church in Arlington, Va., followed by a meal together. From there, congregants from both houses of worship will join thousands of others in the area in a 9/11 Unity Walk in Washington, D.C.

Rock Spring Congregational UCC and Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center share a meal together at their 2012 interfaith event.

The 10 a.m. service will incorporate aspects from both the Christian and Muslim faiths, building on the relationship forged on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when Rock Spring Congregational and Dar Al-Hijrah gathered together in 2011, and again in 2012, to promote peaceful co-existence between the two religions. A member of Dar Al-Hijrah will conduct the Islamic call to prayer at the beginning of the service, and there will be a reading from the Quran in both Arabic and English. Youths from both congregations will perform their own poetry that ties to the theme for the gathering before Dwyer and Dar Al-Hijrah's imam lead the service.

The event's theme, "Two Faiths, One Creation," is a way to tie the aspects of multiple faiths who serve the same God, and humanity's responsibility for earthly care.

"We're going to talk about some of the common themes between our two faith traditions in being entrusted to care for the earth and each other," Dwyer said. "Hopefully that is motivating and inspiring us to have the confidence, courage and desire to keep moving together in that direction."

The 9/11 Unity Walk brings people from various ages, backgrounds and faiths together to educate participants about each other's cultures, creating a world that is united by the varying cultures instead of divided. Thousands of people from the Washington, D.C., area participate annually in the Unity Walk, which began in 2005.

"Being part of the Unity Walk adds to the day we share with Dar Al-Hijrah. We're worshipping with them, inviting them in, and by doing that we are condemning acts of violence in the name of religion," Dwyer said. "One of the things about worshipping together and sharing a meal together, it helps break down the barriers and discomfort. It allows the relationships to guide our perception rather than the prejudices that existed after 9/11."

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Mr. Anthony Moujaes
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