About 150 people gathered Sunday in downtown Oklahoma City to offer prayers for Syrian refugees and to encourage Oklahomans to welcome them when they arrive to live among them.
The Rev. Justin Lindstrom, dean of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, said “Interfaith Prayers for Compassion for Syrian Refugees” was a good “first step” to offer a welcome to Syrian refugees.
“We gather here today to come together as a city, as faithful followers of God to say that we think the refugees fleeing Syria is a catastrophe and it’s a crisis,” Lindstrom told the crowd.
“If they were to come here it would be a great thing for us to welcome them and for us to do it in a unified way.”
The gathering was held at Bicentennial Park, between Oklahoma City Hall and the Civic Center Music Hall, and co-sponsored by the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, along with the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, the Dialogue Institute and the Islamic Council of Oklahoma.
Along with Lindstrom, other speakers shared prayers from different faith perspectives, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Sikhism.
A student from Mercy School, an Islamic school in northwest Oklahoma City, shared a poem and people were encouraged to sign a banner that will be presented to a U.S. State Department diplomat.
“As Oklahomans, we offer our hearts, prayers, compassion and generosity to Syrian refugees,” the banner stated.
Dr. Carl Rubenstein, president of the Interfaith Alliance, said he was pleased that the crowd included people of different faiths and cultures.
Dr. Amer Nouh, a native of Syria, also expressed his appreciation for the crowd and the prayers they offered.
Nouh said he is president of the Oklahoma chapter of the Syrian American Medical Society, a national not-for-profit medical society. He said he has seen firsthand the devastation that war has wrought on the Syrians fleeing their country and the metro interfaith support for the refugees is much needed.
“I think this is a great idea to show who the people of Oklahoma really are. It’s a problem that should be of interest to all people,” Nouh said.
“I’m happy that we chose a state that has a heart.”