Faith leaders promote peacekeeping in increasingly heated times

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When the Rev. Dan Clark heard that an anti-Muslim group planned to protest at a central Ohio mosque during Ramadan two months ago, he immediately reached out to several Muslim leaders to see what the interfaith community could do.

“They were very grateful that we were there to help,” said Clark, director of Faith in Public Life Ohio, a strategy center based in Washington, D.C.

On the morning of June 15, 50 members of Pass the Salt Ministries in Hebron in Licking County showed up at Masjid Omar Ibn El-Khattab mosque on the Northwest Side, and 200 members of the interfaith community showed up to stand peacefully against the protesters, Clark said.

To grow the network that brought the 200 people out, Faith in Public Life hosted training for area faith leaders on Monday.

Rachel Brown, executive director of Over Zero, a Washington, D.C.-based project intended to help people resist division, came to central Ohio for the third time to help religious leaders identify signs and patterns that might lead to violence, and to share ways to mobilize against hate.

“It’s looking at what it looks like to take action,” Brown said Monday while sitting in the library at Noor Islamic Cultural Center on the Northwest Side, the site of the training. “At the simplest level, it’s creating relationships with people you don’t know.”

Faith in Public Life has mobilized groups to come together after each of President Donald Trump’s executive orders banning people from several predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, and on some occasions also outside the local Immigration and Customs Enforcement office when immigrants had meetings there, Clark said.

Much of the hate seen recently has been directed at Muslims, he said, and that’s part of the reason the event was hosted at a mosque.

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