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Interfaith Thanksgiving service aims to foster unity

November 20, 2017 12:09 AM

“In all of our prayers, we thank God,” said Dr. Paul Uppal, Executive Secretary of the Guru Nanak Darbar of Albany, which is a Sikh Temple in Niskayuna. “So Thanksgiving for us is an everyday occurrence.”

“We have been offering up prayers of thanks every single opportunity we have as Jews,” said Rabbi Matt Cutler of the Congregation Gates of Heaven, a Synagogue in Schenectady. 

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Sikhs, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Native Americans & others celebrated a Thanksgiving interfaith prayer service and dinner at the Niskayuna Sikh temple Sunday.

Inside, everyone respected the Sikh tradition by covering their heads.  

“Our hope is that people will learn tonight about how different religious traditions experience and express gratitude and also grieving for the things that are so tragic and terrible in the world,” said Reverend Wendy Bartel of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady. 

Rev. Bartel said some of that tragedy lies in the treatment of Native Americans.  

“We have these myths around what the pilgrims and the Indians did,” Rev. Bartel said. 

Organizers said the event was inspired by recent acts of hate.

“There was some threats of violence against some of our, especially our Jewish and Muslim neighbors and we decided that as, especially as Clergy and especially as people of good will we wanted to bring people together,” said Reverend Dustin Wright of the Messaih Lutheran Church in Schenectady. 

Zorawar Singh knows something about hate. 

He is the only Sikh at Sand Creek Middle School where he said he has been the target of bullying. 

“I was bullied because people thought like I was a girl, like why do you have long hair,” Singh said. 

With his mother’s encouragement, he gave a presentation at school using posters explaining his culture and Skih religion.

“Then they were actually surprised, they were like oh my god we shouldn't have done that,” Singh said. 

“Now they know where we're coming from, what belongs to our religion,” Singh’s mother, Parvinder Kaur, said. 

Singh shared the posters during Sunday’s Thanksgiving program, which also included traditional Sikh food. 

“All people have to sit together and eat,” said Dr. Uppal. “And that's indicative of the equality that we all share.”

The event was organized in part by the Schenectady Clergy Against Hate.
 

Credits

Nia Hamm

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