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Pastors, Officials Offer

Support To Local Sufis

A Cooperstown contingent – seated from left, Methodist Pastor Tom LeBeau, and Presbyterians Carol Beechy and Pastor Elsie Roades – attended Sunday evening’s service of solidarity at the Sufi community in Sidney.  (Ian Austin/

By IAN AUSTIN • Special to

Attendees include the Rev. Craig Schwallenberg, pastor of Oneonta’s UU Church.

SIDNEY CENTER – Spiritual leaders, mayors, law-enforcement officers, friends and neighbors gathered Sunday evening at the Sufi Muslim community of Osmanli Dergahi here to express solidarity after the mass shooting in Christ Church, New Zealand.

“You coming here shows you care.” said Junaid Khan, a leader of the community. “Facebook, twitter, they don’t matter. Thank you for taking action and coming here. It means a lot to us.”

A gunman entered Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch during Friday Prayer on March 15 and shot almost 100 worshipers, killing 50, in the worst mass shooting in that nation’s history.

Rev. Craig Schwallenberg, Oneonta’s Unitarian Universalist pastor, reported on the large number of signs of support  that have appeared outside his church.

“I am running out of places for signs of supports for different groups effected by violence,” he said.  “The sheer number of ways we define ourselves as different is causing us to run out of space and run out of words. Thoughts and prayers may not be enough. If we do not condemn hate and offer protections, we will soon have another vigil…and another…and another.”

Also in attendance was Omar Sanders, representing Governor Cuomo; Ken Sider, president of Temple Beth-El, Oneonta; the Rev. Cynthia Walton-Leavitt, First United Presbyterian Church, Oneonta; Franklin Mayor Tom Briggs; Lee Fisher from the NAACP, Oneonta Chapter, and Troop C Commander William McEvoy and Inv. Scott Mills.


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