The buttoned-down Episcopalian minister was the first to stand up and introduce himself. Then came a Jew wearing a yarmulke. Then a Palestinian Christian attired in black clericals. Next, a Muslim cloaked in an aqua hijab.
On and on they went, 50 people representing three faiths, their clothing a reminder of their differences but their presence a sign of unifying goals: to oppose the war in Iraq, change U.S. foreign policy and find common ground among three religions.
They gathered in a large meeting room at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena on Monday as part of the Interfaith Peacemaking Project, a new initiative that aims to rally Christians, Jews and Muslims against the war. They began their work by critiquing a speech they heard the night before by James Carroll, an author, former Catholic priest and, now, antiwar activist.
Although the discussions remained largely polite and subdued, sparks occasionally flew. At the table where the mission statement was being written, the Rev. Ed Bacon, rector of All Saints, suggested saying that religious leaders were trying to reclaim their religions that had been hijacked.
"I'm not trying to reclaim religion. I'm trying to reclaim the discourse," said Hussam Ayloush, director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He agreed that terrorists have received too much attention but didn't believe that Islam had been hijacked. "We just feel we don't have the same chance to express our views."