For New York City interfaith leaders, last summer’s heated controversy regarding a proposed Islamic cultural center in Downtown Manhattan was disturbing.
“What we saw last summer was not debate. That was a kind of polarizing atmosphere in which people were truly afraid to speak out and even to ask questions,” says the Reverend Chloe Bryer, the executive director of the Interfaith Center of New York.
Now, with the 10th anniversary of September 11th fast approaching, the interfaith community is seeking to counter that atmosphere. They have launched Prepare New York, a new campaign promoting religious pluralism and diversity.
“Although Prepare New York is an interfaith coalition, the work we are doing is for the city, is for the country,” says Dr. Hussein Rashid of the Quest Center for Spiritual Inquiry. “So we want to do is reach people where they feel comfortable, not where we feel comfortable.”
The coalition of six community and interfaith groups plans to reach people through coffee-hour discussions, educational videos and curriculums. It also plans to organize solidarity walks on September 11th.
“What we’re seeking to do is lay the groundwork so that no one feels like they are ‘other,’” says the Reverend Robert Chase, the director of Intersections International.