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200 gather at Hutchins to preach peace, love on 9/11

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Posted: Sunday, September 11, 2011 8:47 pm | Updated: 1:01 pm, Mon Sep 12, 2011.

A melting pot of Lodi cultures said they enjoyed learning about each other and focusing on love and peace in the world during a special ceremony on Sunday afternoon.

Christians from Anglo heritage spent Sept. 11 listening to Muslims, Sikhs and Buddhists discuss their mutual desire for peace while Christian religious leaders declared their desire for exactly the same thing.

An estimated 200 people crammed Hutchins Street Square for what Pastor Mark Price termed a "Gathering for Peace." The unexpectedly large crowd caused pastors organizing the event to frantically grab additional chairs. Price, of St. Paul Lutheran Church, who organized the event, said he thought he might attract 100. Instead, it was a standing room-only.

"I'm just delighted to see this crowd," said Father Harold Clinehens of St. John's Episcopal Church.

Lodi Muslim leader Taj Khan described the turnout as "awesome."

The one-hour event featured several religious leaders welcoming people of many cultures and faiths. Speakers ranging from Bal Bahadur Paul of the Sikh Temple of Lodi and Stockton and Pastor Jack Dawson of United Congregational Christian Church and Rev. Katsuya Katsuryu Kusunoki of the Buddhist Church of Lodi echoed similar sentiments — mankind's failure to live in harmony and love.

Paul said he can't understand why so many wars are fought in the name of religion, and his own religion isn't exempt, he said.

Kusunoki focused on people's greed, anger and ignorance interfering with peace and tranquility.

Dawson prayed to God to give everyone the strength to say no to violence and hatred.

Eric Shields, bishop of the Lodi Stake's Third Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, recalled serving a two-year mission in Japan 30 years ago.

"I never heard one negative word about America in the two years I was there," Shields said.

"They learned to forgive (World War II). May we leave this room with peace in our heart."

Each participant quoted a selection from the Bible or other holy book and offered a prayer. The event included a reading from the Quran by Fahad Munir, a Muslim.

Several attendees — including Paul and Neeta Kauer from the Sikh temple, and Ramzan Ali, a Muslim, said that the Gathering for Peace should become an annual event rather than a one-time event to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

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