SCOTLAND: Priest and imam to read Bible, Qur'an for Sept. 11 anniversary

September 6, 2011

A priest and imam will together read aloud scripture from the Bible and Qur'an on Sept. 11 to mark the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks when hijacked planes slammed into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

As a symbol of unity for the local community and beyond, the Rev. Isaac Poobalan of St. John's Episcopal Church, Aberdeen, and Imam Sheik Abul Hassan of the neighboring mosque will stand side by side at 1 p.m. on Sept. 11 outside their respective place of worship and read aloud verses from the Old Testament of the Bible and from the Qur'an.

The scripture readings and prayers will be followed by a community procession from St. John's to St. Nicholas Parish Church, where further readings and prayers will follow.

"The mutual respect and working together of St. John's Church and the neighboring mosque is an excellent model of collaboration between two historic faiths and there is a very high level of goodwill shared between them," said Bishop Bob Gillies of Aberdeen and Orkney, who will join the procession.

"I am particularly delighted that they will read scripture together on 11 September, a date that is etched in the memories of many people. Those who attacked the twin towers ... were terrorists, and I condemn all acts of terrorism. They were not representative of the historic traditions of Islam, which like Christianity has a message of peace and goodwill that everyone needs to hear. The work between St. John's Church and the mosque is a local illustration of that global message."

The close Christian-Muslim relationship in Aberdeen has developed over recent years, following the building of a mosque on the grounds of St John's Episcopal Church. Last year, both opened their doors as part of the national Doors Open Day to enable people to take part in a walk of peace and harmony along the cloister that joins the mosque to the church, and encouraged mutual respect and understanding of different faiths through joint prayers and reflections. The close relationship has an added poignancy in that a member of the St. John's congregation, Justin Stratis, was in New York on the day of the twin towers attack.

"As an American Christian living in New York during the terrorist attacks in 2001 the feeling of walking into the mosque from the church on Doors Open Day was overwhelming," he said. "The sharing of even our most sacred spaces with one another was truly a bright light in what at that time was a dark week for Muslim-Christian relations. Would that more religious groups have the courage and humility to pursue such sharing."