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Interfaith gathering calls for tolerance, respect at Roxbury mosque

Meeting comes in midst of national rise in hate crimes

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
Interfaith gathering calls for tolerance, respect at Roxbury mosque
Rev. Ray Hammond speaks at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center. Looking on are Mayor Martin Walsh, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Imam Yasir Fahmy and Rev. Burns Stansfield.

An interfaith prayer service at the Islamic Center of Boston’s Roxbury mosque drew a crowd of more than 2,600 Sunday with a message of peace and tolerance in the midst of a nationwide spike in hate crimes. 

(l-r) City Councilor Tito Jackson, Rev. Elizabeth Walker, Nikhat Kazmi and Farhan Kazmi.

Immigrants, Muslims, Jews and others at the service described an atmosphere of heightened fear as President-elect Donald Trump and his supporters have advocated policies including a national registry of Muslims, the repeal of deferred deportations for immigrants and cuts to social policies that affect low-income people. Speakers expressed solidarity, and pledged to work across differences. 

“A lot of people in the immigrant community are at risk of being deported,” said Rodrigo Saavedra, an activist with the immigrant rights group Movimiento Cosecha. “This isn’t just about the immigrant community, it’s about the Muslim community and all communities.”

The service was organized by the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, a coalition of leaders and members of churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious organizations in the area. In addition to the religious leaders, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Boston Mayor Marin Walsh and city councilors Ayanna Pressley and Tito Jackson attended the event. 

Walsh said he would work to make sure Boston remains safe and welcoming for immigrants and Muslims, noting that he has visited the Roxbury mosque several times since he was elected. 

“If every elected official visited a mosque between now and the inauguration in January, we’d be prepared to have a better conversation about diversity in our country,” he said.

Walsh also asked the attendees to continue their work to promote peace and understanding. 

“I call on you to continue your leadership,” he said. “We needed you now, more than ever. We need you to stand up and share your values.”

Muhammad Ali Salaam and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren chat during a meeting at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center.

Sen. Warren cited a passage from the New Testament, Matthew 25:40, quoting Jesus, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Warren said the passage calls for respect for all humanity. 

“In every single one of us there is God, there is something holy,” she said. “We must honor that in each other.”

The event included many of the hallmarks of a GBIO event, including time for people to talk one-on-one with members of other faith communities. GBIO organizers called on elected officials to sign onto a statement pledging to work across differences to promote peace and tolerance. Walsh and Warren signed on. GBIO organizers said Attorney General Maura Healey issued a statement in support of the pledge. Gov. Charlie Baker was unable to attend, GBIO officials said.

Islamic Society of Boston Senior Imam Yasir Fahmy closed out the event, invoking the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of rights for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

“The vision for America, we realized early on, was a call for vigilance and action,” he said.