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Western New England leaders of many faiths find they have much in common

In times of great uncertainty, like a pandemic, you can turn to many places for guidance and reassurance. Some turn to religion. But according to the Pew Research Center, approximately three in ten U.S. adults are religiously unaffiliated. In a December 2021 report, Pew research also indicated self-identified Christians accounted for 63% of the U.S. population, down from 75% a decade ago.

During the uncertain time of the COVID-19 pandemic, places of worship have had to get creative about keeping people connected to their faith.

Rabbi Riqi Kosovske of Beit Ahavah Synagogue in Northampton made the pivot from in-person services to offering online worship.

It was the opposite of people disconnecting. I felt that there was such a hunger and such a need, and it’s changed a lot now, but we’re still in it two years later” she told And Another Thing.

At the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Waterbury, Connecticut, the Rev. James Sullivan says just before the pandemic hit, the church had installed equipment to offer services on the internet, which allowed parishioners to tune in from anywhere.

“Just so many people were watching from literally all over the world who have roots in Waterbury,” said Sullivan.

Religious leaders assembled for a panel discussion on And Another Thing also reflected on the upcoming holiday to celebrate the life and work of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“We need to let our voices be heard. And so we cannot stay in the background when injustices are not right,” said Pastor Bruce Shaw of New Hope Pentecostal Church in Springfield, who argued it is important for religious leaders to follow the lead of Rev. King and take political positions on important issues.

Imam Wissam Abdul Baki of the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts shares a similar sentiment about Dr. King, telling And Another Thing, “I take him as an inspiration, a man loyal to his principles, and as we know, we all share common principles and the most important is justice”.

The panel all agreed that while they have different beliefs, they have much more in common than they do dividing them.

“We have a lot of commonality in the messages from God. The values those messengers of God gave to humanity. The problem is when we misunderstood and started interpreting those values as a competition among the religions,” said Imam Wissam Abdul Baki of the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts.

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