By Linda Finarelli, “Ambler Gazette”
More than 300 members of the greater Ambler, Pa., community packed the Church of the Brethren, where the resonating message by religious and civic leaders was “there is no place for hate in our community.” The May 25 candlelight vigil was a reaction to Ku Klux Klan literature left in the driveways of Maple Glen homes and “KKK” and four-letter words found spray-painted along the Power Line Trail in Horsham 10 days before.
“You are welcome here, whoever you are,” Church of the Brethren pastor Enten Eller told the standing room only crowd. “We stand together against actions that would divide us.
“We are here to be a light in the darkness,” said Eller, president of the Wissahickon Faith Community Association, which sponsored the event billed as “A light in the darkness: An interfaith show of solidarity.”
Quoting the late Martin Luther King Jr., he said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
“We are united together not as all believing the same way, but in celebration of the diversity that strengthens us,” Eller said. “Those who accept evil without protesting are really cooperating with it. Thank you for not cooperating with racism.”
Montgomery County Commissioners vice chairman Val Arkoosh said she was “saddened by the overt racism, Islamophobia, desecration of cemeteries, mosques being burned down,” but “heartened by those coming together to say we will not stand for this in our community.”
Noting Upper Dublin High School is recognized as a No Place for Hate School, principal Robert Schultz said, “We recognize we have a long road to travel.... We will continue the efforts together. Upper Dublin High School will stand with all of you against hate and bigotry.”
“Acts of hate will not be tolerated in Upper Dublin,” township commissioner Ron Feldman said. “The commissioners will strive to make it a better place to live, and work to make sure people understand this shouldn’t happen.”
“I was prayerful we had moved beyond this,” said Charles Quann, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church. “All Muslims are not terrorists; all African Americans are not hoodlums. I pray tonight we will begin to turn around.
“I want us to be ready to make a difference. We are not going back. We are fired up and ready to go,” Quann said, bringing the crowd to their feet. “We’re here together, black and white to stand together. We will make a difference.”
“We know light will ultimately vanquish the darkness,” Or Hadash rabbi Joshua Waxman offered. “All of you are that light.”
“Racism and prejudice and judging our neighbors, increasing divisiveness in our nation, we need to put that back on its heels,” said Upper Dublin Lutheran Church pastor Dyan Lawlor. “The time has come to fight all the ‘isms,’ to flush it out of our system.”
“Hate did not just start today, for a time it was silenced...a time when people would never speak those hateful words,” said Congregation Beth Or rabbi Gregory Marx. Without naming the president, but quoting some of the divisive comments he made during the campaign, Marx said, “When this becomes public discourse and becomes acceptable, then America is in trouble.
“We are all responsible and we cannot wash our hands and walk away...we must rally and offer communal support.”
Wiping tears from her eyes at the end of the moving event, where those gathered held candles high and sang, “We Shall Overcome,” Abington resident Maria Banks said she felt both fear and sadness, and was concerned for the children of her siblings, who were in “interracial marriages based and built on love,” and hoped that “no horrific things happening in the world may impact them.”
Upper Dublin resident Bari Goldenberg said she was there, because “I thought it was my responsibility. I want to do something to make a difference and make hate go away.”
“It is not OK to put someone else ahead of you,” Upper Dublin resident Jane Beier said. “We are all mankind, all one. We are a community.”
-- Reprinted with permission. Credit: Digital First Media. Find this report published online by the “Ambler Gazette” at www.montgomerynews.com/amblergazette/news/photos-vigil-against-hate-draws-hundreds-in-ambler/article_428c567f-f9db-5186-8bd0-1d2fd80399a4.html . Find a television news report on the vigil at www.fox29.com/news/257042471-story .