In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Valley Stream Religious Council held an interfaith service on Sunday at the Baha’i Center of Nassau County in Valley Stream to recognize all of the community’s religions, and to honor King’s impact on the world.
Representatives of the Baha’i Center, Holy Name of Mary Church, Masjid Hamza, Temple Hillel, Temple Gates of Zion, Valley Stream Presbyterian Church and other members of the religious counsel offered prayers and gave speeches promoting love, togetherness, anti-racism, anti-discrimination, community and equality for people of all creeds and races.
Throughout the service, the messages expressed by the faith leaders and organizers were tailored to the themes underpinning King’s nonviolent pursuit of desegregation in the United States, which helped bring about the passage of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act, and which he continued promoting until his assassination in 1968.
“Martin Luther King preached about understanding the oneness of humanity, and this interfaith service really showed how all religion welcomes love, which is the answer to escape prejudice,” Marie McNair, president of the Interfaith Council, said. “. . . I really appreciate Martin Luther King, because his words are so lasting and have such an impact on people who are looking for a solution to racism and prejudice.”
“Martin Luther King was a person that was able to — both in actions and words — display the values of justice, love, freedom and dignity for all,” said Rabbi Yechiel Buchband, of the Temple Gates of Zion, who said he enjoyed hearing scriptures from different religious books read aloud at the interfaith service. “MLK would always speak beautifully, and his actions showed what he spoke about . . . I hope his dream will live on after us.”
The Rev. Kymberley Clemons-Jones, of the Valley Stream Presbyterian Church, said that she also enjoyed the shared message of love, which displayed the similarities among the religious leaders and followers in attendance. “I agree with MLK’s nonviolent approach because love doesn’t grow by hatred . . . love grows by love,” she said. “Jesus walked in the same way that Martin Luther King walked, in a nonviolent way, which shows that we can do the same.”
Clemons-Jones’s husband, Philip Jones, said that while he agreed with King’s message of non-violence, he believed that sometimes it’s important to take action in other ways.
As a Presbyterian, Jones said, he found the example in the Bible, of Jesus becoming angry at a group of merchants selling their wares outside the temple in Jerusalem and chasing them away, an effective case of standing up for one’s rights. “I do believe we should walk in a nonviolent way, but we shouldn’t let ourselves be taken advantage of,” he said.
Rabbi Steven Graber, of Temple Hillel, said he enjoyed the service because it helped him realize that he wasn’t alone in the fight against hate and injustice.
“Martin Luther King’s nonviolent approach doesn’t inspire me because I’m living in a defensive position as I watch hate rise,” Graber said, noting the recent increase in hate crimes against Jews. “I think activism is the answer, not pacifism, because we need to educate and speak out to find ways to curtail the hatred and not let the haters get to us.”