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Virginia Christians, Jews, Muslims to Gather for Prayer on September 11

As the United States marks nine years since the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, some people outside the nation's capital are gathering to pray. Jews and Muslims from Fredericksburg, Virginia hope to foster healing rather than anger.

Reverend Gay Rahn was driving home from vacation recently when she heard a radio debate about a proposed Islamic center in New York City, near the site of the World Trade Center. The discussion brought back memories of September 11, 2001.

The Associate Rector at St. George's Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg, Virginia says that some of the comments she heard disturbed her.

Rev. Gay Rahn
Rev. Gay Rahn

Rahn says she was also upset by the plans of a small church in Florida to burn the Quran on September 11.

She contacted her friends, Rabbi Devorah Lynn of Beth Shalom Temple in Stafford, Virginia and Munira Marlow of the Fredericksburg Islamic Center. Rahn says she believes it is important to bring faiths together to remember the 2001 terrorist attacks.

"I thought it would be important for us to show to the community that there's another side," she said. "There's compassion and there's friendship and there's relationship, and to remember those who died and those who are still hurting from that great tragedy."

Devorah Lynn says September 11th is a special Sabbath for the Jewish community, the Sabbath of repentance. Lynn says that because of the significance of the day - falling between the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur - having a service only for her membership on September 11th would be difficult.

Lynn says reports of the lower Manhattan mosque controversy make an interfaith prayer service seem like the right thing to do.

"It seemed to be the obvious thing that our friends in Fredericksburg would get together," said Rabbi Devorah Lynn. "We have been getting together as an interfaith leadership group for a couple of years now for this very purpose -- to show strength between the faiths as opposed to conflict between them."

Lynn joined with Munira Marlow and Gay Rahn to organize Saturday's service at Market Square in Fredericksburg.

Sami Shamma, the Imam from Fredericksburg Islamic Center
Sami Shamma, the Imam from Fredericksburg Islamic Center

Imam Sami Shamma of the city's Islamic center says he hopes the interfaith service will help heal some of the wounds among religious communities, particularly on September 11.

"It's an attempt from all groups to show that healing is possible," said Shamma. "It is for us to acknowledge the evil that happened on that day. And hopefully by acknowledging it, we will be able to move a little bit forward in this process of healing."

Gay Rahn says the response from the Fredericksburg community has been positive. She says she hopes that the prayer service will open dialogue with other religious communities. Rahn says that instead of making a political statement, they want to show friendship and the need for prayer as the nation remembers the terrorist attacks of nine years ago.