Unity Week brings cultures, religions together in local communities

 

Bensalem and surrounding communities came together last week to share what in other places might divide them: their cultural identities.

Spurred by the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Building a Better Bensalem Together (B3T), a local volunteer coalition, organized its 12th Annual Unity Week in celebration of the diversity within the community.

Over the course of last week, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Jewish leaders opened the doors of their respective worship sites and hosted small faith services to share their belief systems with people of all different backgrounds.

Matt Schickling / Wire photo  Three Monks of the Mongkoltepmunee Buddhist Temple led participants in a Buddhist chant for love, kindness and peacefulness last Wednesday afternoon.

Bensalem events were hosted by Love Fellowship Tabernacle, St. Ephrem’s Church, Mongkoltepmunee Buddhist Temple, Faith Unity Islamic Organization, Bensalem Methodist Church, Congregation Tifereth Israel Synagogue and St. Katharine Drexel Shrine and Mission Center. Other services were held at Linconia Tabernacle in Feasterville-Trevose and BAPS Swaminarayan Temple in Levittown.

The events kicked off with a Monday morning breakfast at Parx Casino, followed by a series of short services and shared meals so that those who attended could get to know each other.

This year’s theme was “Passing the Faith to a Younger Generation,” B3T Diversity Committee Chairwoman Toby Kahn said. That theme was well on display, as children from local schools participated in the Unity Week events. Also, dozens of other students in middle and high schools volunteer for B3T events throughout the year.
“Building a Better Bensalem has shown the way on this,” Bensalem Mayor Joseph DiGirolamo said. “Diversity is our country, is our community, and it is the strongest community because of that.”

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Matt Schickling / Wire photo Students from the Bensalem Christian Day School held American flags and smiley faces while singing some faith-based songs for those gathered at the Bensalem United Methodist Church.

“Diversity is everything
and we lead the way here in Bensalem,” he added.

The primary mission of B3T is to provide resources for the community to reduce substance abuse and other adole
scent problem behaviors. The diversity committee seeks to unite people of different backgrounds to accomplish this goal of harmony in the township.

Several religious leaders reiterated that goal throughout the week.

The Rev. Stephen Katziner, of St. Ephrem Church, spoke about unfair stereotyping of people of other religions or ethnic backgrounds, and in particular, the Muslim community.

“We’re trying to build interreligious bridges,” he said.

Pastor Bob Amundsen of Bensalem United Methodist Church spoke about the diversity
and safety in Bensalem, and how he moved his parents to the township for these reasons.

“I just believe in this community,” he said.

Others presented on the influence and legacy of Dr. King and the importance and tenets of their own religions.

The weeklong events concluded at St. Katharine Drexel Shrine and Mission Center last Friday.

“We learn many things from all of our houses of worship here in our Bensalem community, and have bonded a lot of relationships,” Kahn said. “As a tribute to Martin Luther King, we’re so very grateful that we have the opportunity to carry out so many of his dreams.”

For more information on Building a Better Bensalem Together, visit www.bensalemb3t.org.

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