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Flushing groups open doors for interfaith walk

Adem Carroll (r.) speaks before leading the Queens Interfaith Unity Walk in Flushing around Kissena Boulevard. Photo by Rebecca Henely
TimesLedger Newspapers

Eager to understand their neighbors, about 100 Flushing citizens participated in a tour of some of the neighborhood’s houses of worship Sunday, speaking to leaders and learning about their fellow residents’ religious traditions.

“It’s an interfaith unity walk in one of the most religiously diverse and culturally diverse places in the universe,” said Naomi Paz Greenberg, of the Flushing Morningside Quakers.

This was the fourth annual walk for the Flushing Interfaith Council. Participants began at the Hindu Center Temple, at 45-52 Kissena Blvd., and visited a mosque, a Catholic church and a synagogue, among other religious houses.

“It’s a great example of why Flushing is the melting pot that it is,” said City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone).

Adem Carroll, who works with the council and the Muslim Progressive Traditionalist Alliance, said the event is modeled on a similar walk in Brooklyn and that the churches or temples the council visits changes every year.

He said the aim of the walk is to build bridges between the different houses of faith that reside in Flushing and to open new doors to cooperation and understanding.

“There’s tension in every community, but when you know your neighbor sometimes it’s easier to engage in dialogue and avoid conflict,” Carroll said.

During the visits, religious leaders spoke about their traditions and answered questions.

“We are open all the time,” said Imam Abdelghani Benyahya, of the Muslim Center of New York, about inviting the community into the mosque, at 137-58 Geranium Ave. “We’re free when you have any questions to come to us.”

Benyahya said he thought dialogue between people of different faiths is important for understanding.

“Most of the time we don’t even know the other person and we judge him,” he said.

Harini Bangera, treasurer of the Hindu Temple Society of North America/Ganesh Temple, at 45-57 Bowne St., also praised the event.

“We’re all together, all religions,” she said. “Everyone comes together.”

Rabbi Bob Kaplan, of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, who attended the walk, said he thought it was important residents find out about the growing populations in the neighborhood and throughout the city.

“Flushing is sort of emblematic of this incredible diversity and this new diversity that people haven’t heard about,” Kaplan said. “It’s important that people get exposed to it, learn about it.”

Don Capalbi, spokesman for state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing), said the walk is a good way to build understanding between faiths.

“We’ve been supporting this event for four years now and it’s been a joy to watch it grow,” Capalbi said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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