Interfaith Gathering Promotes Forgiveness andLove in New York

December 3, 2000

Source: The New York Times

On December 3, 2000, The New York Times reported that "Muslims, Catholics, Jews, Protestants, Buddhists and Bahais prayed together. An American Indian dance troupe shared the stage with a lesbian and gay men's gospel choir. And a former New York City police officer, Steven McDonald, a paraplegic since he was shot by a teenager in 1986, talked about learning to forgive. It was a lovefest at Convent Avenue Baptist Church, at 145th Street and Convent Avenue, last Monday night, as hundreds of people gathered for a service to help New Yorkers express love and forgiveness and heal the emotional wounds brought on by violence and hate. The service was the brainchild of Isaiah Owens, a Harlem funeral director, who conceived of it after the death of John F. Kennedy Jr. in 1999. He placed registers outside his business, Owens Funeral Service at Lenox Avenue and 121st Street, to help Harlemites express their grief. After collecting more than 7,000 signatures, he decided the city needed a way to continue to express love. 'When God created us, he created us to do one thing and that was to love one another,' Mr. Owens said. Toward that end, Mr. Owens has called on families who have been marred by violence to come together. He envisions Kennedys sitting next to Oswalds and the King family next to the Rays. Last year he persuaded Grace Volpe, the mother of Justin A. Volpe, to apologize for her son's role in the police attack on Abner Louima. This year there were no apologies, but a star-studded dais, which included a former Supreme, Mary Wilson, and the actor Ossie Davis, who made a call for peace. In 2003, Mr. Owens plans to stage the service at the Lincoln Memorial on the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech."