By Seth Daniel
Five faith leaders from the three major religions signed a Statement on Religious Unity with City Manager Tom Ambrosino and formed the Chelsea Interfaith Alliance on Monday, April 3, to support one another in an uncertain national climate.
Rev. Edgar Duarte of St. Luke’s Episcopal; Loay Assaf, CEO of Al Huda Society; Rabbi Lila Kagedan of the Walnut Street Orthodox Jewish Synagogue; Rev. Ellen Rohan Ball of the First Congregational Church; and Rev. Sandra Whitley of the People’s Chelsea AME Church all gathered at City Hall on Monday to sign the accord with City Manager Tom Ambrosino.
“The goal is for all of the faith leaders in the community to come together to cooperate on issues that are important to the community,” he said. “During a time of uncertainty in the country, we have a local plan to make sure this is a community that is united.”
Said Rev. Duarte, otherwise known locally as Father Edgar, “This is our statement that we stand together and will work together to uphold the values we hold dear to all of us.”
CEO Assaf said the move was something they should have done some time ago, but needed the push of today’s climate and Ambrosino to make happen.
“This was the right environment and the right time and a little push helped us to take action on this,” he said. “Sometimes you need a catalyst. The city manager created the environment for all of us to come together…I hope this is the beginning of a long-term relationship… At the end of the day, we are all human.”
Rev. Whitley remarked that she and Father Edgar have been working on the accord for about eight years. Now, with everyone in agreement, she said it was a time of joy.
“It’s wonderful the timing brought us to this place,” she said. “It’s really a day of rejoicing focus and the timing of our city manager coming on board…I’m grateful for the journey we have begun.”
Rabbi Kagedan said that if the five leaders can get together to work out their differences, then their followers should be able to do the same.
“I know this is not going to be the last time we’ll all sit together,” she said. “That’s a gift and it’s not a given. This is a very special group.”
As an aside, Kagedan is no stranger to firsts. Before coming to Chelsea, she became the first female orthodox rabbi in the world while serving at a temple in New Jersey. She came to Chelsea last fall to take up leadership of the Walnut Street Synagogue.
The five leaders of the faiths and Ambrosino signed an accord in English and Spanish.
The accord recites scripture from the Torah, the Bible and the Quran, each calling for adherents to love and do good to strangers despite any differences.
The accord also:
- affirmed Chelsea as a Sanctuary City and rejected the deportation of immigrants except those engaged in criminal activity.
- objected to any travel ban imposed on immigrants and refugees, including those from Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Iran, Sudan, Iraq and Syria. It also objected to any profiling based on race, religion or immigration status.
- objected to the building of a wall at the Mexican-American border.
- vowed to preserve clean air, water, and land.
- commit to respect and listen openly to those who may not share the same humanitarian views or values.