The Dove World Outreach Center’s threat to burn the Quran gained worldwide attention, but amid the threats of violence and media chaos in Gainesville, one organization held tightly to its founding principles of peace, understanding and hope — the Gainesville Interfaith Forum.
The organization hosted the Gathering for Peace, Understanding & Hope this Friday at the Trinity United Methodist Church and greeted more than one thousand visitors with speakers, art galleries, music and food representing the traditions of various faiths.
The event was held to encouraging tolerance and love in both the religious and international communities.
Rijaab Mansoor, a junior at Eastside High School in Gainesville, explained why she was moved to participate in the Gainesville Interfaith Forum.
“I feel with the increasing Islamophobia, we need to get out there,” she said. “We need to show each other what our religions are about.”
Dan Johnson, senior pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church and fellow member of the Interfaith Forum, started the initiative for the event.
The event has expanded beyond the Gainesville community, eliciting donations from all over the country and support from around the world.
“I received e-mail affirmation from all over the world,” Johnson explained, noting an e-mail from a woman in Pakistan who “thanked God” for his church. “People are so bombarded by this Dove stuff, they are eager to find anything else [positive].”
Amanda Monaco, UF junior and president of Humanitarian Interaction on Campus, agreed with the positive response of the Gainesville Interfaith Forum to the Dove World Outreach Center.
“[The Gathering for Peace, Understanding & Hope] is a perfect response to the hateful thing Dove was doing,” she said. “Instead of responding in an antagonistic way, we made it into a positive experience.”
At the event, a wide arrange of cultures were represented. From saris to yarmulkes, from naan to challah bread, no ethnic stone was left unturned.
Josh Pusey, the youth director at Trinity United Methodist Church, said, “It is a testament to our community. We are a people committed to the idea of living in harmony.”
Asad and Humeraa Qamar, husband and wife and founders of both the Ocala and Gainesville interfaith forums, created the organizations in response to the wearing of the “Islam Is of The Devil” T-shirts by members of the Dove World Outreach Center about a year ago.
The forum is composed of members from the Hindu, Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths.
“The group meets together, holds hands and prays together,” Humeraa Qamar said. “[They are] outstanding individuals who make the effort to promote love and peace.”
The group meets every three months and discusses topics of mutual interest, seeking to find similarities and common ground.
She said the mission of the group is “to foster love, peace and understanding between different faiths, recognizing faiths are different yet alike.”