PINELLAS PARK – Beneath a skylight in a Christian church, surrounded by stained-glass images of Jesus Christ, Omar Kassem led the Muslim call to prayer in Arabic.

“God is great,” the University of South Florida student said to the congregation at Good Samaritan Church, which ended the hourlong Sunday service by announcing “salaam,” the Muslim greeting for peace.

Church leaders say the acts served as bookends for a service meant to promote peace and a better understanding between Christians and Muslims four years after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Good Samaritan Church in Pinellas Park is a union of Presbyterian and United Church of Christ denominations. What better church to reach across faiths to destroy stereotypes, said the Rev. Susan Sherwood.

And who better than church leaders to lead the effort toward peace throughout the nation and the world?

“We need to speak up, be heard, take action — even while worshipping together,” Sherwood said.

The meeting was initiated by Ahmed Bedier, spokesman for Central Florida’s Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Even four years after the Sept. 11 attacks, Muslims nationwide still are persecuted by people seeking revenge, Bedier said.

Muslims still struggle to communicate that not all who preach Islam adhere to the ideals of Osama bin Laden.

Of bin Laden and his followers, Bedier said Muslims “are using our voices to condemn them.” (MORE)


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