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Interfaith service honors Charleston, Orlando victims

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Dearborn — The dozens of people who quietly bowed their heads in prayer Monday night at the Islamic Center of America represented several faiths: Islam, Judaism, Christianity.

But the group gathered to mark the fatal shootings in Orlando last week and Charleston in 2015 shared a singular goal: to seek peace amid ongoing hate-fueled violence that has claimed so many lives.

“We wonder when will it be enough,” said the Rev. Fran Hayes of Littlefield Presbyterian Church. “We are tired of this. We pray for those beloved brothers and sisters. ... The same lifeblood flows through all of our veins and spills out without any regard to differences.”

The InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit sponsored the memorial prayer service.

It came the same day the FBI released transcripts that showed Orlando gunman Omar Mateen identified himself as an Islamic soldier in calls with authorities and demanded that the U.S. “stop bombing Syria and Iraq.”

Monday’s vigil also followed the first anniversary of the fatal shootings of nine black parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina. A white man, Dylann Roof, faces charges in state and federal courts, and prosecutors in each are seeking the death penalty.

Faith leaders from across the region denounced both incidents. “Heal demented minds that they might know peace and love and joy,” the Rev. Priscilla Carey-Tucker said while praying in front of the crowd. “Touch and cleanse the thoughts and hearts and minds of all people, that peace and love may flow into every life.”

The Charleston and Orlando victims were “shot down in cold blood” in acts intended to divide groups, said the Rev. Kenneth J. Flowers of Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit. “Now is the time to build bridges rather than building walls,” he said.

Unity means “replacing racism with respect, revenge with reconciliation, injustice with equality, isolation with outreach,” said Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights.

The message heartened Wendy Robins of the Berkley-based Song and Spirit Institute for Peace, which promotes understanding among people from diverse backgrounds. “My hope is enough energy being sent out to create real change,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.