WITH THE MISSION of furthering efforts to fight religious-backed attacks worldwide, state Senators Raymond Lesniak (D-Dist. 20) and Tom Kean Jr. (R-Dist. 22) on Feb. 9 in Trenton announced the formation of “Faith Leaders Against Violence.”
“The recent attacks at Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish deli in Paris have brought to the forefront once again the abuse of religious beliefs by some humans to avenge their own personal resentments and desire for power in the name of God,” said Lesniak. “This powerful force — the human desire for revenge, control, and power — needs to be met by a greater force: religious leaders from all denominations uniting to speak out against the use of violence in the name of religion, any religion.”
The coalition shows, said Kean, that “we are solidified across political party lines, geographic borders, and belief structures to set a strong tone of peace, against persecution, hatred, and violence by terrorists claiming to act in the name of God.”
“In this environment, and at this time, genuine religious organizations must meet the challenge and stand against these false and ungodly organizations,” said Bishop Reginald Jackson, pastor of St. Matthew AME Church in Orange and executive director of the Black Ministers’ Council of NJ. “We rejoice that we do not have to do it by ourselves, but join with faith partners in speaking up and standing against bigotry, hatred, and violence in the name of religion.”
The NJ State Association of Jewish Federations assisted in formation of the coalition, said its executive director, Jacob Toporek, by securing the participation of Jewish community representatives.
Other members of the coalition include Rabbi Avi Richler, director of legislative affairs, Chabad in NJ; John Rosen, executive director, American Jewish Committee, NJ; Rabbi Avi Schnall, legislative director, Agudath Israel-NJ; Imam W. Deen Shareef, Masjid Waarrith Ud Deen, Irvington; Dr. Joan Rivitz, member of the NJ Civil Rights Commission; the Rev. Dr. LL DuBreuil, pastor of Faith United Church of Christ; the Rev. Bruce Davidson, former director, NJ Lutheran Office of Governmental Ministry; the Rev. Roberta Arrowsmith, pastor, Connecticut Farms Presbyterian Church; Josh Pruzansky, regional director, Orthodox Union; Joan Diefenbach, director of NJ Council of Churches; and Patrick Brannigan, executive director, NJ Catholic Conference.