WESTBURY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — There was an unusual holiday partnership this Christmas Day, as Christian and Muslim volunteers united to spread holiday cheer to needy families – and in the process, build greater understanding.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, a Christmas feast was prepared by a unique collection of Santa’s helpers Monday. Volunteers with the Islamic Center of Long Island joined forces with the Westbury United Methodist Church for a new holiday tradition.
“There is so much tragedy going on,” said Long Island Islamic Center volunteer Aisha Munhammad. “We have to be here for each other no matter what religion you are, and I think humanity and love is above everything.”
“Doesn’t matter what religion you are, doesn’t matter where you come from – everyone is one family,” said Westbury United Methodist Church volunteer Giordan Walker
The two families of worship joined hands and hearts to make Christmas merrier for more than 200 homeless and struggling neighbors.
Youth groups at the Islamic Center and church volunteers raised money for hundreds of Christmas gifts, donated clothing, and a warm meal that also served up a message.
“We are all cousins. That’s the bottom line. We might all look different, but that’s fine,” said Islamic Center volunteer Ali Mohammed. “It’s all about coexistence — bringing together.”
“The whole message is to spread peace and joy and love and to show unity,” said Islamic Center volunteer Dr. Uzma Syed. “There are more similarities than differences.”
The similarities are found at the core of both faiths.
“We are all children of God,” said Islamic Center President-elect Habeeb Ahmed. “We follow different paths to the same goal.”
“Whether you’re a Christian, a Jew, Islamic, churched, unchurched – it’s an opportunity for us to build relationships, said Westbury United Methodist Church Pastor Rev. Sheila Beckford.
The goal is to open a dialogue and celebrate a common purpose.
“As a community, we work together. As a ministry, we are asked to love our neighbor as ourselves,” said Rose Walker of the Westbury church.
It is also a tenet of Islam.
“We should be doing this every day of our lives,” said Islamic Center volunteer Faisal Zakaria. “This is something that should be a given that we all live harmoniously in this world.”
Organizers believe this is a place to start – locally – to build understanding and common ground. They say hope can overcome hate.
This is the third year the Methodist church and Islamic Center have teamed up on Christmas Day and other activities.