Forum looks to promote understanding between communities

April 19, 2017 06:47 PM

ALBANY – Members of the Muslim and Jewish communities got together with Congressman Paul Tonko for a forum on ways to bring their communities together. The panelists came from varying walks of life but all agreed on one main point: communication is the key to understanding.

"We need to get to know each other better so we can live as good neighbors and friends," said Dr. Mussarat Chaudhry, a panelist representing the Muslim community.

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Dozens filled The Linda in Albany Wednesday afternoon for the forum that tried to answer a seemingly simple but incredibly complex question: how to heal current societal rifts? "Right now, we need to build bridges, get to understand each other at different levels," said Dr. Chaudhry.

All the panelists spoke on what they see as the worrying tone of rhetoric in the United States during and after the most recent presidential election. Even more worrisome for the panelists, those words have been turned into actions with bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers, swastikas being drawn, and personal stories of children being called terrorists for how they look.

"We are a welcome territory to all sorts of backgrounds," said Congressman Paul Tonko. "And for us to now change that message is an embarrassing scar."

Congressman Tonko says that people he has spoken with in his district are scared because of the rhetoric and actions at the national level, including immigration raids by ICE and the president’s proposed ban on immigrants from Middle Eastern countries. "I will do what I can in public office to turn that around," said Tonko.

People who attended the forum say they are encouraged by what they saw on display. "To have the four of them talking about their own arenas and then coming together and discussing solutions I think is extremely important," said Paula Weiss.

The forum was part of a series of events leading up to a musical performance that is being put on by Albany Pro Musica called "The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace". The performance will be presented on May 6th.


Ben Amey

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