Religions Join Together To Pray For Peace In Yonkers

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Shaikh Waleed Elbatrawish of the Imam Andalusia Islamic Center recites a prayer Sunday at the Interreligious Prayer Service at the Monastery Church of the Sacred Heart in Yonkers.
Shaikh Waleed Elbatrawish of the Imam Andalusia Islamic Center recites a prayer Sunday at the Interreligious Prayer Service at the Monastery Church of the Sacred Heart in Yonkers. Photo Credit: Matt Bultman

YONKERS, N.Y. – Religious worshipers from traditions around the globe joined together in an international prayer for peace Sunday in Yonkers.

Leaders representing nine different faiths were on hand for the Ninth Annual Interreligious Prayer Service For Peace and Justice inside the Monastery Church of the Sacred Heart.

Organized by Charles Chesnavage, a student at the graduate school of Religion and Religious Education at Fordham University, the two-hour service was a celebration of the World Interfaith Harmony Week, aimed to help promote understanding and tolerance between people of all religions.

“I believe different religious traditions that are willing to pray together are less likely to kill or hate each other,” Chesnavage said. “If we believe what we pray, pray what we believe, and live out what we pray and believe, then our prayers can be realized for peace and justice in our world.”

This week, the first of February, has been proclaimed as World Interfaith Harmony Week by the United Nations. The celebration is a way to promote harmony as people of various religions take the time to recognize that their common values far outweigh any differences they may have, the UN said. 

With that in mind, dozens of worshipers listened in Yonkers Sunday as religious leaders, representing faiths ranging from Judaism to Islam, Buddhism to Jainism, made their own prayers for peace. 

One-by-one, each took their turn at the altar, singing or reciting their prayers. While the spoken languages and traditions of each were different, the message of peace and understanding was all the same. 

“No religion is an island,” the congregation recited in unison. “We share the kinship for humanity, the capacity for compassion.”

Rev. Qalvy Grainzvolt, of the Shinnyo-En Buddhist Temple in White Plains, said that idea is the building block needed for a person to influence the world in a positive way.

“Realizing peace in the world is more than just a concept,” he said. “We can build it step by step through sincerity and steady efforts.”

Before the ceremony began, Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers), chairperson of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, presented Chesnavage a proclamation declaring Sunday Interfaith Harmony Day in Westchester County. He praised the religious leaders for the efforts in coming together.

“Having a continuum and dialogue for peace and justice is a place we all need to be and we certainly need to pray for peace and justice,” he said.

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The following representatives from 9 religious traditions participated in the 9th Annual Interreligious Prayer Service for Peace and Justice celebrating World Interfaith Harmony Week. Guru Dileepji, President, International Gurukula Community, Inc. NY, NY, Hindu; Rev. Oalvy Grainzvolt, Shinnyo-En Buddhist Temple, White Plains, NY, Buddhist: Subodh and Trishala Feyler, Jain Meditation Int'l Center, NY,NY, Jain; Mr. Jatinder P. Singh and his children Satleen Kaur, Dashmesh Singh, and Sundri Kaur, Sikh; Shaikh Waleed Elbatrawish, Imam Andalusia Islamic Center, Yonkers, Islam; Rabbi Roger Ross, Chair of the Board of the International Seminary of Interfaith Studies, NY, NY, Jewish; Diane J. Pratt, Corresonding Secretary for the Yonkers Baha'i Local Spiritual Assembly, Baha'i; Fr. Maurice Moreau, OFM Cap., Pastor of the Monastery Church of the Sacred Heart, Yonkers, Christian; Mr. George Stonefish, Board of Directors of American Indian Community House, Native American.