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Multi-Faith Gathering

Community Comes Together in unified show of support
'To label one is to label all,' area leaders delclare'
By Tom Henry | Blade Staff Writer
Published on February 7, 2017

One day after 600 people angered by President Trump’s Muslim ban attended a special prayer service at the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, a smaller but vocal cross-section of clergy, physicians, and politicians packed the meeting room of the Grape Leaf restaurant in Holland and demanded justice.

The event Monday night had all of the makings of a civil rights rally, with several prominent leaders of Toledo’s African-American community quoting the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., shouting rally chants, and throwing their support behind local Muslims who they said have become their brothers and sisters in persecution.

Joining them were representatives of many other faith communities, including Jews, Catholics, and Buddhists.

“We are with them hand in hand. We’ve been there as African-Americans,” said the Rev. Cedric Brock, pastor of Mount Nebo Missionary Baptist Church and president of the Interdenominational Ministers’ Alliance, which represents more than 60 churches. IMA of Toledo co-organized the rally with the United Muslim Association of Toledo.

“To label one is to label all,” Reverend Brock continued. “It could be your turn tomorrow.”

Dr. S. Maseeh Rehman, a physician who serves as president of the United Muslim Association of Toledo, said the mere presence he felt from about 60 people who attended gratified him beyond words.

“What shapes us is our values,” Dr. Rehman said. ”Home is not where you are born. It is where you belong.”

The ban, currently on hold because of a federal judge’s ruling, is an act of “vicious discrimination,” he said.

“This really is un-American,” Dr. Rehman said. “It hurts.”

As several pastors and other speakers poured out their hearts to Muslims and vice versa, the rally seemed to pick up momentum. Several politicians, including Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson, Lucas County Commission President Tina Skeldon-Wozniak, Councilman Cecilia Adams, and Councilman Larry Sykes arrived and offered more thoughts.

Ms. Hicks-Hudson said it’s important that people don’t just feel reinvigorated. They need to spread the message of love and compassion, the mayor said.

“We are all God’s children. Be willing to say that,” Ms. Hicks-Hudson said. “We want to put forth [the message that Toledo] is a place of compassion, a place of openness.”

Several speakers said Mr. Trump’s hardline approach to immigration could end up being a blessing because of how it has unified people.

“As a Christian, I am proud to be able to stand with my black brothers and sisters and my Muslim brothers and sisters,” said the Rev. Tony Gallagher, 81, a white man who is a retired Roman Catholic priest formerly associated with St. Patrick’s Parish in Grand Rapids, Ohio. The Rev. James Willis, pastor at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church and a member of Toledoans United for Social Action, said he was “excited to be here because we’re coming together.”

“We owe a great deal of gratitude to the African-American community,” Naveed Ahmed, an Islamic Center of Greater Toledo trustee, said.

Ray Wood, the Toledo chapter president for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the nationwide uproar over the immigration ban reminds him of Mr. King’s efforts to mobilize people for civil-rights protests during the 1960s, echoing a sentiment of how there’s work to be done and that the “appalling silence of some people” also cannot be condoned.

“We can’t lose our focus,” Councilman Sykes said. “Bad things bring good things. [Mr. Trump] has brought us together.”

At 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Father Jim Bacik — a widely regarded theologian, writer, lecturer, and priest in the Diocese of Toledo for more than 50 years — is delivering a speech at the Franciscan Center of Lourdes University. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door.

At 1 p.m. Friday, the Masjid Saad Foundation, 5225 W. Alexis Rd., Sylvania, is hosting another rally in support of Muslims.

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com, 419-724-6079, or via Twitter @ecowriterohio.