As an American holiday, Thanksgiving brings people from all walks of life and all faith groups together. In Louisville, the Interfaith Thanksgiving Prayer Service and Dinner has become an annual tradition to promote understanding, compassion and fellowship.
This year’s program, held on Monday, November 21, at Crescent Hill Baptist Church, was sponsored by Interfaith Paths to Peace in partnership with the church, River Road Mosque and Temple Shalom.
Rev. Jason Crosby, pastor of the host congregation, welcomed everyone, highlighting the role the Baptist church had in establishing freedom of religious expression and the separation of church and state as important precepts upon which the United States was founded.
Interfaith Paths to Peace Executive Director Haleh Karimi talked about the changing role her organization must play in the face of rising terrorism. “Our organization has planted seeds of interfaith understanding and peacemaking for 20 years,” she said, “and we will continue to harvest the fruit for years to come.”
Dr. Muhammad Babar, long a proponent of interfaith cooperation who has been making a difference for good in the community and in the world for many years, spoke of the pain this year has brought as he and his family have suffered from rising Islamophobia. He called on all those present to write, speak and stand for Liberty.
Congressman John Yarmuth and Metro Councilman Bill Hollander also addressed the group.
The prayer service started with Gregory Rahming, accompanied by Dr. Louie Bailey, singing “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”
That was followed by community faith leaders offering prayers from their diverse traditions. Those leaders were Rabbi Beth Jacowitz Chottiner of Temple Shalom, Imam Mohammad Wasif Iqbal of the River Road Mosque, Rev. Nanda of the Kentucky meditation compassionate Peace Center (Buddhist), Dr. Jahanigir Cyrus of the Louisville Baha’I Community, and Sunder Iyer from the Hindu Temple of Kentucky.
To wrap up the formal program, Jeremiah A.R. Cunningham of Iktomi Sha Oyate (Lakota tradition) led a Native American peace pipe ceremony and candle lighting. Everyone in attendance was invited to pick up a lighted candle and stand on the front steps of the church.
Cunningham brought a traditional sacred pipe of unity for the ceremony. The long wooden stem, made of cedar, symbolizes all that grows on the earth, or the masculine, he explained; and the stone bowl, carved of catlinite, represents the earth itself, or the feminine. Together, they represent all the universe.
He lit the pipe and shared it with the other faith leaders for prayer, ceremony and unity.