Category Archives: Voices

Continuing to build BRIDGES

Talk Loudoun, January 11, 2012 (with photos).

talkloudoun_dot2011On November 13, members of Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES hosted the third annual Day of Thanks, an event designed to express gratitude for Loudoun’s openness and acceptance of religious and cultural diversity. Participants enjoyed traditional Thanksgiving fare and ethnic and vegetarian specialties, as well as live musical performances to inspire awareness and understanding.

Event emcee Bill Aiken, chairman of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, added extra depth to the evening with commentary on his experiences working with interfaith communities throughout the world. Aiken premiered the English language edition of the video “2010 Washington D.C. Area Interfaith Activities,” which has been shared with Farsi speakers throughout the world and features international voices, including founding BRIDGES members sharing what interfaith dialogue and cooperation mean and how they manifest themselves in their own communities.

A highlight of the annual program is the annual BRIDGES Award presentation to a citizen of Loudoun County who has put forth exemplary effort to promote peace and understanding among diverse faiths. The 2011 award was presented to Mitchell Jacobson of the Northern Virginia Baha’i Center. Jacobson worked throughout the year to support BRIDGES projects and interfaith activities.

Donations of non-perishable food were distributed through Loudoun Interfaith Relief to local residents. To learn more about Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES, visit their website at https://www.loudouninterfaithbridges.org.

“Hi Neighbor, I don’t like you the way you are.”

david_w“Hi Neighbor, you have a nice display of lights,” the anonymous note begins. “This love note explains how that pagan tradition began.”

The unsolicited lecture “love note” was distributed to residents of a Michigan neighborhood:

For thousands of years, Sun-worshippers have celebrated the Sungod’s rebirth after Solstice. Pagans honored the birth of the “invincible sun” with a “festival of lights.” They used big bonfires, pigs fat tallow candle lights, and today, billions of colored christmass lights. Rome’s seven-day December Saturnalia was religious revelry with decadent drunkenness outrageous adultery and giving Saturn’s nativity birth gifts to the children. The Norseman’s yuletide solstice carousal used sexual soliciting mistletoe, Yule-log bonfires, and decorated evergreen wreaths and tree worship. None of this honors Yeshua the Christ… [the published image cuts off the note at this point. -Ed.]

During the two-plus years of the ongoing Loudoun Festival of Holiday Free Speech and Vandalism, I don’t recall anyone from any community attempting to dictate the content of other people’s displays on private property. We can be thankful for that, at least.

It doesn’t extend to respect for the personal appearance of our neighbors, though. A Muslim friend reports this experience: A fellow customer at a local business made a point of returning (after bravely starting her car), to sneer “Merry Christmas!” at my friend in a tone that was not jolly, or loving, or inspired by good will toward all people. And this was not an isolated incident. What has happened to us?

I bet this Christmanukah Treenora wouldn’t pass inspection by any of these folks, either. I’m sure this must violate some religious authority’s notion of appropriateness. And that’s unfortunate, because the only people in the Bible who Jesus really expressed anger toward were those who – in the name of God – put their own dogma of cultural conformity above being loving toward other human beings (a thank you to John Shore for pointing this out so compellingly). In other words, people who for some reason think they have the authority to make exceptions to what Jesus clearly says is the most important thing of all: Love your neighbor as yourself.

David Weintraub is an Elder at St. James United Church of Christ, Lovettsville.

Lamentations over religious bigotry

prangePublished in the Loudoun Times-Mirror, August 11, 2010

As St. James United Church of Christ in Lovettsville, we take seriously a tradition naming Jesus as Christ – as well as taking seriously the biblical tradition and contexts in which that term evolved. So in describing our faith community, we have said that “worship involves a dialogue with a Word of God as we find it in The Scriptures and a dialogue with each other around that Word, along with an openness to how that Word might come in other ways and from other traditions so that we might be enlightened and empowered to live out God’s mercy, justice, and peace.”

With such a statement, it is clear we do not equate the Bible with being a “word of God” – but rather a spiritual resource for discovering some transcending “word” or truth to guide us in our daily lives. But it is also clear from that statement that we are open to how truths out of other traditions might enlighten us in our faith journey. We affirm and celebrate our involvement in Loudoun Interfaith Bridges and encourage all people of faith to pursue this path of cultivating mutual understandings in the contexts of multicultural and multireligious diversity in which we live. (For more information, see loudouninterfaithbridges.org.)

So it is disheartening to us when we hear of opposition to the efforts of the Cordoba Initiative to build a cultural center and mosque near “Ground Zero” in New York coming from a so-called “Christian” legal center known as The American Center for Law and Justice, as well as from the Jewish Anti-Defamation League. This is hardly reflective of the transcending truths to be found in biblical narratives.

But it is even more disheartening – indeed alarming – to hear that a nondenominational church in Florida is hosting an “International Burn a Quran Day” on the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, and is inviting Christians to join in burning the Muslim holy book. If anything, Sept. 11 should be a day for Christians and persons of all faith communities to spend time in lamentation and repentance for religious bigotry wherever and whenever it has happened in human history.

The Rev. Don Prange is pastor at St. James United Church of Christ in Lovettsville. Call 540-822-4306 or visit http://www.stjamesucc-love.org.

It isn’t illegal to be brown

anyaPublished in the Loudoun Times-Mirror, July 7, 2010

This season, with its fireworks and freedom songs, bursts in my heart with a reading of Langston Hughes poem “I, too sing America.” The early-20th-century African-American poet reminds his audience that freedom is not the prize of the privileged but the moral responsibility of any and all who dare drink its advantages. He closes, “I, too, am America,” reminding me that we are called to see one another as brothers and sisters, held by the beautiful possibility of freedom and united by the God of love, known in many ways by many names.

I felt called to sing Hughes’ song of freedom this Fourth of July as the states of our nation (at present Arizona, but soon many others) struggle to enact appropriate legislation around illegal immigration. I sing this song when I witness children separated from their mothers, and families split in two, when I hear the vehement rhetoric of the immigration debate spill over into racism, and an unbridled fear of “the other,” and especially when I see how laws enacted to protect the freedom of some, utterly impede the freedom of others.

I am a white middle-class woman. I have never been pulled over in my car simply because I looked illegal, nor have I had my body searched and my identity scrutinized simply because my skin was brown. Nor have I moved into a home on a quiet street and discovered that few of my white neighbors would speak with me, while most would speak of me behind my back. I am saved from these ills simply by the color of my skin, but the God I believe in does not damn or save anyone indiscriminately – only humans, operating with an imperfect love, do that.

Our ability to love is imperfect; we are not gods walking on Earth. This is exactly why we craft laws – to lead us to the more perfect union, one we could not establish alone. My faith and my conscience (partners in my Unitarian Universalist religion) call me to support only those laws that recognize and uphold the freedom of any and all Americans. We need comprehensive immigration reform, we don’t need laws that infringe upon the freedoms of any of our brothers and sisters simply because their skin is brown. Who is singing, this season of freedom: “I, too, am America”? Who are we willing to hear?

The Rev. Anya Sammler-Michael is a minister with the Unitarian Universalists of Sterling.

Equality and Justice for All

prangePublished in the Loudoun Times-Mirror, June 17, 2010

In a few weeks, we’ll celebrate the Fourth of July and recall a Declaration of Independence that says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [people] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, [and] that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The Preamble to our Constitution speaks of “securing the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

Our Pledge of Allegiance concludes “with liberty and justice for all.”

We love liberty! But while the Declaration of Independence says that “all are equated equal,” it is not always apparent that we love equality.

When Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister—and a Christian socialist—wrote the Pledge in 1892 for public school programs sponsored by the National Education Association of which he was chairman, he considered including the word “equality”—but knew that many state superintendents of education on his committee were against equality for women and African-Americans.

I’m reminded of what one of my African-American friends once said to his white sisters and brothers back in the 1960s: “When you recite the Pledge of Allegiance what you mean is ‘liberty and justice for y’all.’”

There are numerous contexts today in which equality, in terms of liberty and justice for all, needs to be recognized in fulfilling the promises of what was declared on July 4, 1776; perhaps one of the most significant contexts is that of marriage equality and recognitions of same-sex marriage.

So especially for those of us who relate to a Christian tradition, St. Paul, one of our earliest organizers, makes this declaration: “Sisters and brothers, you were called, as you know, to liberty; but be careful, or this liberty will provide an opening for self-indulgence.” [Galatians 5:13]

Liberty, without equality, reflects a self-indulgent nation.

The Rev. Don Prange, of St. James United Church of Christ in Lovettsville, can be reached at 540-822-4306 or via http://www.stjamesucc-love.org.

Duty to God and Country

martinezPublished in the Loudoun Times-Mirror May 19, 2010

“On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”

– Boy Scout oath

With more than 4 million members, Boy Scouts of America is one of the most prominent values-based organizations. Since its 1910 founding, more than 110 million Americans have been members. Boy Scouts programs build character, demonstrate citizenship and develop personal fitness. We are honored to celebrate 100 years of Scouting!

It’s also the 30th anniversary of the National Islamic Committee of Boy Scouts of America, which awards the “In the Name of God” and Peace emblems. Boy Scouts’ duty to God and country is why many Protestant, Roman Catholic, Latter-Day Saints, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh and other faith communities sponsor Scouting programs.

The All Dulles Area Muslim Society, or ADAMS, has four Boy Scouts units with 65 Cub Scouts, 35 Boy Scouts and five Venture crewmembers. We’re members of the Goose Creek District of the National Capital Area Council. We have Scout leaders who achieved Eagle Scout rank in their youth and served honorably in the U.S. military. Muslim Scouts also participate in units sponsored by civic organizations and PTAs across the country.

Two ADAMS Boy Scouts recently achieved Eagle by collecting thousands of pounds of food for a Catholic nursing home in West Virginia and for Reston Interfaith, demonstrating their commitments to interfaith and community service.

To celebrate 100 years of Scouting, many ADAMS Scout families will attend the National Capital Area Council Centennial Camporee. The National Islamic Committee will participate in the 2010 National Scout Jamboree. There will be Muslim Friday prayers, Jewish Shabbat services and Christian Sunday services, as well as interfaith services. In “Scouting for Boys,” Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of BSA, said it best: “Every Scout should have religion. Religion seems a very simple thing: First: Love and serve God. Second: Love and serve your neighbor.”

Rizwan Jaka is a board member for the All Dulles Area Muslim Society and the Islamic Society of North America, and chairman of the board for the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington.

Distant Grief

anyaPublished in the Loudoun Times-Mirror, May 12, 2010

What do we do with distant grief?

When I say distant grief, I mean the grief that grips us when we hear of a tragedy that occurred in a place we have never been, to a people we do not know. I mean that sort of grief that settles in our hearts as hopelessness: “What can I do? Who am I to help?”

A member at the Unitarian Universalists of Sterling expressed the pain that has gripped her upon hearing of recent tragedies – from the earthquakes in Haiti and China, to the mining disaster in West Virginia, from the explosion and oil spill off the coast of Louisiana, to the tornadoes in the American South. She feels grief for all the loss but the grief seems unresolved, distant, disconnected.

Her struggle reminds me of the basis for an ethic of empathy in the Jewish and Christian scriptures, the story of the Exodus. After the Israelites are freed from bondage they are reminded “befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” This is more than a call for hospitality, it is an imperative to empathize. It asks us to understand another’s woe as if it were our own.

Thich Nhat Hanh, the exiled Tibetan Buddhist, speaks a similar truth in his poem “Please Call Me By My True Names,” which includes these lines: “I am a frog swimming happily in the clear water of a pond, I am also the grass snake who approaching in silence, feeds itself on the frog.” His poem is a meditation on empathy. In it he expands his “personal experience” to include the experiences of others as his own.

Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that everyone has the capacity to be courageous in the face of tragedy. Rather than ignore the fact that we live in a world rife with both suffering and joy, we can contemplate how the experiences of others matter to us, how and where distant joys and tragedies touch our own lives.
This is not easy. This path of empathy known in many ways by many faith traditions requires that we give some of our precious time to meditation or contemplation or prayer – to acts of connection that lessen the spaces between us and them. This path requires great courage, but consider what it offers. Distant grief is unresolved grief; it can feel like a dull ache. If we dare take one step closer to grief, it may call us out of numbness to empathy with our fellow beings.

The Rev. Anya Sammler-Michael is the minister at the Unitarian Universalists of Sterling.

In A Few Short Moments

kemperI’ve been traveling a lot lately, and I confess that I’m getting a bit tired of airplanes and taxicabs and eating meals on the run.  But on Friday, in the midst of the swirl and whirl of getting to the airport on time, I experienced one of those magical time-out-of-time moments of connection with another human being.

I was running late that morning, and was distracted as I got into the cab, even asking him to wait a moment while I checked my briefcase for cell phone and keys and ticket.  It was a beautiful morning–sunny with clear blue skies–and that was, not surprisingly, where the conversation began.

After a bit, the cab driver asked me whether my trip was for business or pleasure.  When I answered, “business,” he inquired about my profession.  The conversation took a turn, as it often does when I answer that question truthfully, admitting that I am a Unitarian Universalist minister!  As we rode through the morning traffic, we entered into a discussion of the theological intricacies of violence and peace and the question of “What Does God Want Us To Do?” while we are alive and on this earth.  We talked about the Judgment Day and being called to help our neighbor. Eventually, the conversation shifted to the Arts and how music and images can transcend spoken language.  We agreed that, as the cab driver said, “even if you do not understand the words, the music can get to your heart and you understand the meaning.”

As the taxi sped down the George Washington Memorial Parkway, the cab driver glanced into the rearview mirror at me, looked back at the road, and began to sing.  It was a haunting melody, more of a chant than a song, and I believe I recognized the language as Arabic.  But the words or the language, as I mentioned above, were not the point at this particular moment.

At first, I was taken aback, and my rational mind went wild:  What was he saying?  What did it mean?  Quickly, though, as he continued to sing, I calmed those distracting thoughts, closed my eyes, and sat in the back of the cab listening, letting my heart feel the meaning in his heart.  Four or five minutes later, the singing stopped.  The driver paused.  I opened my eyes, put my hand on my heart and whispered, “Thank you,” at the rear view mirror.

And the cab driver smiled and said, “What airline, please?”

I said “Delta,” and seconds later, we pulled up in front of Terminal A.

I do not know this gentleman’s name.  I will likely never see him again.  But I will never forget the gift he gave me that busy Friday morning, and I will do my very best to remember to pay attention to those unexpected holy moments when our common humanity transcends our theological and cultural differences.

All blessings to you, Mr. Envirocab Driver.

May you find such gifts as you move through your own busy life.

Rev. Lisa Kemper is Consulting Minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Loudoun in Leesburg

Prayer to the Earth

prangeOriginally published in the Loudoun Times-Mirror, April 21, 2010.

As you celebrate Earth Day this week, I invite you to pray in the words of The Rev. Kofi Appia-Kubi of Ghana, who has long since returned to the womb of Mother Earth.

Oh, Mother Earth! We are fully dependent on you.

It is you who received us with your open arms at birth while we were yet naked.

You supply our daily wants with your rich resources. Indeed, you nurture us throughout our earthly life. And when death finally snatches us away, you will still be there to open up your womb and receive us back.

Yet, look what we have done to your loving kindness in return; we have raped, polluted, exploited and wasted your rich gifts. We have treated you with greed and disrespect. Your gifts are monopolized by a few at the expense of the many.
We have grasped the meaning of the atom bomb and lost the meaning of “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We have indeed become nuclear giants but ethical infants; we reach out to the moon and to Mars while ignoring our earthly duties.

We have continually broken our covenant with you; we have abandoned the ethics of learning to live with nature; rather, we have tried to conquer it. So our waters putrefy, our environments stink, our fish and animals die, we are plagued by diseases; the whole creation groans! Mountains erupt and swallow our homes like a roaring lion; we are drowned by flooding rivers and oceans! They elude our scientific knowledge.

We stand open-mouthed and repeatedly ask, “How long, how long, how long—oh, Mother Earth?”

We have sinned against you and the Spirit of creation! We forget that our use of your gifts reflects our spiritual, social and economic well-being. Our unjust use of your gifts has brought about economic and ecological disaster. We are plagued by spiritual and social decay.

How do we expect to do violence to ourselves and to the earth without inviting social, spiritual and environmental chaos?

Our constant plea, therefore is, “Mother Earth, forgive, forgive, forgive!”

For the legs of the hen do not kill the chicks.

PEACE! SALAAM! SHALOM! SATYAGRAHA!

(Adapted from a prayer of the Rev. Kofi Appiah-Kubi, published in “Doing Theology in a Divided World,” Orbis Books, 1985, pp. 163,64.)

The Rev. Don Prange, minister at St. James United Church of Christ in Lovettsville, can be reached at 540-822-4306 or coramej@aol.com. For more information, go to http://www.stjamesucc-love.org.

Reflections on Women’s History Month

martinezOriginally published in the Loudoun Times-Mirror, March 24, 2010.

Around the world on March 8, International Women’s Day honored women’s economic, political and social accomplishments. Congress declared March National Women’s History Month, when we honor extraordinary women like Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, Hillary Clinton and Sonia Sotomayor.

Sometimes missing from history is religion’s role in advancing women’s rights and equality. Contrary to modern-day stereotypes, Islam in particular led the way in establishing and protecting women’s God-given rights. Almost 1,500 years ago, God Almighty said in the Qur’an: “I do not neglect the deeds of any one of you who works, whether male or female. You are of one another.” (3:195)

The Rev. William Montgomery Watt (1909-2006), a Scottish historian, wrote that before Islam began, “the conditions of women were terrible—they had no right to own property, were supposed to be the property of the man, and if the man died everything went to his sons.” Islam, however, by “instituting rights of property ownership, inheritance, education and divorce, gave women certain basic safeguards.” (The Coracle, the Iona Community, summer 2000, issue 3:51, pp. 8-11.) Watt noted that women were not accorded such legal status in the West until centuries later.

Today, a majority of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world live in countries that have, at some time, elected women as heads of state. Four of the five most populous Muslim-majority countries have elected women leaders – in Indonesia (the most populous Muslim country) Megawati Sukarnoputri was president from 2001 to 2004; in Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto was prime minister twice (1988-1990, 1993-1996); in Bangladesh, Khaleda Zia (1991-1996) and Sheikh Hasina Wazed (1996-2001, 2009-present) served as prime minister; in Turkey, Tansu Çiller was prime minister (1993-1996).

This could mean women have gained true equality. Unfortunately, all over the world and here at home, women do not receive equal pay for equal work, do not have a proportionate presence in business or politics, and our education and health lag behind men’s.

We have female astronauts and athletes, professors and pediatricians. We can have a family or work – or both. Let’s be grateful for our God-given equality.

Let’s also remember that actions speak louder than words – we have a long way to go for our daughters and nieces.

Priscilla Martinez coordinates several programs for the All Dulles Area Muslim Society.

The rhythm of the economy and the heart

anyaOriginally published in the Loudoun Times-Mirror, March 17, 2010.

The last of the snow melted from our front lawn in Sterling. Just as it did, the crocuses and daffodils pierced through the earth to draw the sun’s rays. May we be reminded that all things come and go, that today’s joys and today’s sorrows will in time give way. There is a rhythm to life. Some find God in that rhythm; some feel that rhythm when they breathe in and then out in Buddhist meditation; some know that rhythm as scientific truth.

The rhythm of life, known in many ways, given many names, teaches us that we belong to something far greater than ourselves that moves with and through us—from winter to spring, from sorrow to joy, from grief to healing or back again.

Many are still suffering the downturn of our economy. Some theorists say the current crisis is just a part of the rhythm inherent in our economic system. I don’t necessarily find that theory comforting, but it does call me to a faithful response.

Ever since our economy crashed, we have been looking for a culprit – pointing fingers at the wrongdoers, from the top executives to the working poor. This gives some satisfaction, but it doesn’t help us heal. Healing comes when we recognize that we are all bound up in this experience together and that we must work together to regain economic and social stability.

The slumps and highs of our economy will come. The seasons will come. Life moves with a rhythm that feels beyond our control. But there is one force that can move independently – and that force is love. So those of us who have strength to share today ought to do so while we can, and those who are in need ought to allow ourselves to receive, for tomorrow these roles might be reversed. Love moves us to give when we can, and it is what gives us the courage to ask for help when we are in need. We may not control all life’s rhythms but we can move with and through them with love.

Rev. Anya Sammler-Michael is the minister at the Unitarian Universalists of Sterling.

The history of the Passover seder

ragozinOriginally published in the Loudoun Times-Mirror, March 10, 2010

Beginning Monday evening, March 29, the Jewish people will celebrate Passover. This holiday commemorates Israel’s Exodus from Egypt.

Families and friends will gather for the seder, a ritualized meal in which we retell the story of God’s liberation of Israel from Egyptian bondage accompanied by blessings, wine, hors d’oeuvres, symbolic foods and song. Though the seder is one of the most widely celebrated Jewish rituals today, 2,000 years ago the celebration of Passover was markedly different.

As long as the Temple existed, the essential rite of Passover was the Passover sacrifice. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, sacrifices could no longer be offered. While the loss of the Temple was a catastrophe for Judaism as a whole, the problem of the Temple’s destruction for Passover was acute. Could the holiday be celebrated without its essential rite?

Indeed the second-century Christian, Justin Martyr, recognized the sacrifice’s essential place within the Passover celebration and attacked Judaism for its absence due to the loss of the Temple. By contrast, he argued that Christians can partake of the passover offering through the body of Christ.

Despite the challenging circumstances, the rabbis of the second and third century were able to maintain the Jewish observance of Passover. To accomplish this, they drew from the biblical and post-biblical aspects of Passover that could be observed without the Temple, such as remembering the Exodus from Egypt, unleavened bread (matzah) and drinking of wine. They changed the status of these rituals, making them important in their own right, not dependent upon the Passover sacrifice. In short, they sought continuity and change.

The effort to reconstruct Passover mirrors the overall project of maintaining Judaism after the Temple’s destruction. While the Temple stood, Judaism was a sacrificial, temple-based religion in which the highest forms of serving God, experiencing God and piety were dependent upon the Temple. After the destruction of the Second Temple, Judaism became the individual, home-based religion we practice today.

Rabbi Michael Ragozin is the congregational rabbi at Sha’are Shalom in Leesburg.

Celebrate Holidays with Joy and Mutual Respect

dsc_0009__2_Published in the Leesburg Today, December 29, 2009

Dear Editor:

In light of the recent controversy over holiday displays, the undersigned members of Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES wish to express our gratitude to the members of Leesburg’s Christian community who reached out last year to include other faiths in this long tradition. While not all in our group agreed that the courthouse grounds are an appropriate venue for religious displays, several of our congregations responded to the gracious invitation. Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation and the Sikh community provided holiday displays to join the creche on the courthouse grounds, and speakers from the Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and Sikh faiths provided remarks for an invocation given in the spirit of holiday celebration and community. This simple celebration of faith and understanding across boundaries remained throughout the holiday season for passersby to enjoy; readers can find photos and more information at www.loudouninterfaithbridges.org.

Unfortunately, some of the public comments following the prohibition of displays indicate a lack of awareness of these events. Many seem to believe that the display prohibition was intended as a ban on expressions of the Christian faith; some who signed the petition demanding reversal of the decision even made hateful remarks directed at other faiths. This misdirected anger is as disheartening as it is destructive.

Now that the Board of Supervisors has reversed the display prohibition, our hope is that in coming years we can return to the example put into practice last year, and that those communities of faith who wish to share a public celebration of the holiday season will do so with mutual respect, reverence, and great joy.

Unity of Loudoun County
St. James United Church of Christ, Lovettsville
Unitarian Universalists of Sterling
Sheila Kryston, Debra Dalby, Goose Creek Friends Meeting
All Dulles Area Muslim Society, Main Center
All Dulles Area Muslim Society, Ashburn
Guru Angad Institute of Sikh Studies
Rev. Dr. David Milam
Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation, Ashburn

Students honored for interfaith initiatives

Ezza Anees, Youth Award winnerBy Paul Smith
Loudoun Times-Mirror, November 17, 2009

Two high school students won awards for their interfaith work during the Day of Thanks celebration Nov. 8 at Ida Lee Recreation Center in Leesburg. Nearly 200 attended the event, hosted by Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES. It was the first such event in Loudoun for interfaith leaders and community members.

Celia Lechtman, Youth Award winnerEzza Anees, a senior at Broad Run High School, and Celia Lechtman, a junior at Stone Bridge High School, won Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES Youth Awards. Each received a cash award of $750 to be used toward their college education or to support their future interfaith initiatives.

Ezza received the award for participating in several multicultural forums and events, and for organizing a Muslim Student Association at Broad Run to foster interfaith dialogue among students and faculty. Celia was recognized for having sung at and participated in interfaith activities, and for her vision to produce a CD featuring the melodies and songs of various faith traditions.

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