By John Agar, The Grand Rapids Press
GRAND RAPIDS — As Americans today remember the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the Rev. John Geaney — joined by religious leaders, including an imam — on Friday said too many "blinded by fear" blame entire cultures or religions for troubles in the world.
He cited the Florida pastor, Terry Jones, who ignited fury with plans to burn Qurans, and angry debate over construction of a mosque near ground zero.
"When will we be able to say to them, ‘No more?’ No more hatred. … No more blaming all Muslims for the terror of a few," Geaney said at his church, Cathedral of St. Andrew.
Religious leaders gathered for a "Community Prayer Service" to offer prayers to police officers, firefighters and paramedics on the eve of the anniversary of the terror attacks. Bishop Walter Hurley of the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids urged people to "work together to establish that peace and harmony that binds us together in various faiths and various peoples throughout the world."
The ceremony, which featured musicians and Catholic Central High School concert choir, drew fewer than 40 — mostly police, firefighters and paramedics. Hurley doubted that animosity toward Muslims was behind the small turnout.
The only negative response prior to the ceremony was an anonymous message that it should include burning Qurans.
The message of those who gathered was the most important, he said afterward.
"It’s just important to come together as God’s people here in Grand Rapids," he said. "The Islamic community is part of the Grand Rapids community."
Sharif Sahibzada, imam of the Islamic Center and Mosque of West Michigan, shared hopes for peace among all. He asked God to "grant peace to mankind" and provide the "ability to live, with love, harmoniously."
"Oh Lord, save us from … killing each other, and following in the footsteps of Satan … . Depart from evil, seek peace."
Bishop Walter Durham, of Praying Hands Ministry Church of God in Christ United, said he had strong hope in these "turbulent times," but worried that ideology divides too many.
"Unite in peace, not war," Durham said.
The Rev. Anne Weirich of Westminster Presbyterian Church prayed for protectors, and those who have lost lives in the line of duty. "May all of us remember what price our peace is won."
Geaney, the priest at St. Andrew, recalled the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who dreamed of children of all colors walking hand in hand.
"That dream is yet to come to pass," he said.
But he reminded that rescuers responding to the fallen World Trade Center didn’t consider race or religious beliefs in trying to save lifes. In that, and the country’s unity after the attacks, he saw hope.
"It is America’s destiny, I believe, to be the light for other nations."