By Aqeela Naqvi
After the tragic events of September 11, 2001, communities around the nation came together to help each other grieve, to support those who had lost loved ones, and most importantly, to help each other heal. One aspect of this healing was seen in many interfaith communities, as the horrendous acts by terrorists on 9/11 had sent waves of discord through interfaith relations.
In order to keep communities together and keep interfaith relations strong, many communities reached out to centers of different faiths. One such is the Freehold community, where three centers of different faiths: Muslim (Bait-wali-ul-Asr, IZFNA), Catholic (St. Robert Bellarmine Church), and Reform Jewish (Temple Shaari Emeth), came together in 2006 to form a program called Project Understanding. This program, according to the Monmouth County Human Relations Commission, was created to â€œpromote positive human relations amongst diverse groups in Monmouth County through interaction with interfaith groups and community service projects, such as the collecting and delivering food for the Open Door Food Pantry, serving meals at the Freehold Area Lunch Program, and collecting and distributing food and clothing to homeless in the Midnight Run Project.â€ The Midnight Run Project involved youth from three different faiths in collecting clothing, food items, and toiletries at their respective centers, and coming together on a cold, winter night, to load the items on a bus, and distribute them to the less fortunate at midnight in New York City.
At the completion of the program, the youth were awarded with certificates of appreciation, presented by the Monmouth County Human Relations Commission. The program is now inactive, but memories of the positive effect it had on creating relationships based on understanding and friendship between youth of different faiths calls for more programs of its kind. By focusing on the youth, programs like these will allow for the future leaders of the world to build the foundation of their interfaith understanding today, instead of waiting for tomorrow, so that in the years to come, acceptance and understanding between the communities can continue to grow, and ties of friendship will continue to be passed down for generations to come, Inshaâ€™Allah.