A Muslim clergyman spoke out on the violence in the Middle East from a New Haven pulpit—a Christian pulpit—and called for peace and understanding.
Imam Omer Bajwa, the coordinator of Muslim life at Yale, delivered that message at regular Sunday morning worship services at the United Church on the Green. He spoke amid a worldwide backdrop of tensions in the wake of Muslim riots and deadly attacks following the release of an incendiary film about the Prophet Mohammed created and distributed by U.S.-based Coptic Christians.
"I stand before you as a Muslim and as a leader of a Muslim community, to condemn in unequivocal terms the violence supposedly done in the name of Islam and the name of the prophet," Bajwa told the congregation. "This is the farthest thing from the teachings of the prophet."
Bajwa stated that even more important than the "macro issues" facing Muslims and Christians face are "the micro issues. The most micro issue that I can think of is your own relationship with God. However you conceive of God, however you define your relationship with God, and what is your relationship with the people around you."
"We're all people of God in the midst of tragedy and turmoil, and in the midst of chaos confusion and hatred, of naked unabashed aggression," Bajwa told the congregants. "We are the people of God to counteract that. And it's difficult. But it's also a reminder to myself as well as to you."
United Church Senior Minister Rev. John Gage said he wanted to give "Omer and his tradition the honor of giving him our pulpit, so that we, as Christians, might listen for a word from our God from him, as a Muslim."Gage delivered a similar message to his congregation during a small "children's circle." "We've been hearing on the news about people who are angry on all sides, and who are being violent and acting out in anger, and we're here to say we don't have to do that," Gage told the children. We're all part of God's family."