Yale imam deplores violence from church pulpit

September 16, 2012
NEW HAVEN – Imam Omer Bajwa, coordinator of Muslim life at Yale University, took the pulpit of a Christian church in the heart of downtown Sunday and denounced the recent violence of those who call themselves followers of Islam.
Violence, he said, is “the farthest you can get from Islam.”
Bajwa told the congregation that Islam has two key elements: sincerety to God and compassion to his creations. Just like Christianity, the religion is about light, not darkness, he said.
He based his sermon in part on a verse from the Quran called the “Light Verse” (24:35).
Bajwa said someone was asked after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, “Where was God in all this?” Bajwa said the person turned it around and asked, “Where are the people of God to counteract,” that kind of thinking?
The invitation for the imam to speak at the church had been in the works for some time and the plan was to make it as close to Sept. 11 as possible, church officials said.
Bajwa preached less than a week after the American ambassador to Libya was killed after a film denigrating the prophet Mohammad sparked demonstrations by some Muslims.
Bajwa was welcomed warmly by The Rev. John MacIver Gage, pastor of the United Church of Christ, and the congregation. Gage seized a teachable moment with the special guest during children’s circle time before the sermon.
“There are other people who see God in a different way, but it’s the same God,” Gage told them. “There are people in the world making trouble. We’re here today to say we’re all children of God.”
He told the children if anyone says they should be mean to Muslims, you say, ‘God forbid, that’s not what Jesus taught me.”’
Gage told them even people within the same family often have different beliefs, as well as people within the same church.
Bajwa, who has been chaplain at Yale for four years, said it was a “blessing” to visit the church.
For more information about the church at the corner of Temple and Elm streets, go to www.unitednewhaven.org.
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