When he read about the bombings of five Catholic churches in Baghdad on the
dawn of the first day of Ramadan, the Rev. Paul E. Edwards cried. Then the
pastor of St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Church in Weston appealed for help.

In response, leaders from two South Florida Muslim organizations are
pledging to work with Catholics to create awareness about religious
persecution and to help rebuild the churches.

Representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations — CAIR —
will address congregants at St. Katharine’s at 10 a.m. today during a
Thanksgiving service.

“I will let [them] know that Muslims stand side-by-side with them at this
time of trial and tribulation,” said Altaf Ali, CAIR’s Florida director.
“We want to show that in America, we can be a coalition of interfaith
[groups] that work toward the best interest of humanity.”

Mary Ross Agosta, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Miami, hopes the
dialogue at the church at 2700 Glades Circle will cement better relations.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for two religious communities to come
together, especially on this day of Thanksgiving,” she said. “As we join
together in prayer, we ask God for peace in our lives and in our countries.”

The initiative comes after Edwards wrote a column that was published Nov. 5
in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. In it, he said he cried after learning
of the church bombings on Oct. 16 and the deaths of 12 people in similar
incidents in August.

Edwards wrote that Catholics and Muslims have been at odds for centuries,
including the times of the Crusades, when Catholics committed excesses in
Muslim nations.

The Catholic Church has apologized and “disavowed any harm done to Muslims
by our ancestral brothers and sisters,” he said, adding it’s appropriate
for the Muslim community to denounce persecution of Catholics and support
Catholics around the world.

Ali said CAIR officials would ask local Muslims to raise money to help
repair the churches. He already met in private with Edwards to express his
concerns about the incidents.

Edwards said offerings collected by his congregants at today’s service
would go toward the rebuilding effort in Iraq


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