Members of Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh and other communities hailing from areas around Queens gathered in Flushing for a symbolic celebration of religious diversity and freedom.
The Beacon of Pluralism Project, organized by local artists Nancy Bruno and Gina Minielli, is a ceremonial candle-lighting ceremony meant to bring together members of different faiths. The celebratory event took place at the Flushing Friends Meetinghouse on Jan. 30.
“This meeting house represents — in the eyes of many people in Flushing, in Queens and the world, actually — the birth of religious freedom in North America,” said John Choe, member of the Flushing Interfaith Council.
Leaders and members from the Church on the Hill, Free Synagogue of Flushing, Church of St. Mel, Pax Christi Metro New York, Dar-al-Taqwa Islamic Center, Baha’i Temple, the Hindu Temple Society of North America, Unitarian Universalist Church of Flushing and the Flushing Quaker Meeting House convened at the meeting place that evening.
“I grew up in Flushing,” Minielli said. “We are on the ground of religious freedom; it was born here. And every person from Flushing, or lives in Flushing or walks through Flushing should know that. It is never more important than it is right now, today.”
Minielli and Bruno designed the candleholders, which each representative from the various congregations in attendance were invited to take back to their places of worship.
“Often when we think about religion in the world today, we think of religion as instigator of violence,” said Blaine Crawford, pastor at the Church on the Hill in Flushing. “And I want to suggest that religion is a necessary good for flourishing communities; a necessary good for those involved with them.”
“I think we all need to support each other, and that’s what this event, and this project, is about,” said a member of the Dar-al-Taqwa Islamic Center.
The event also featured a slideshow of photographs taken by Minielli, highlighting the various houses of worship and religious gatherings throughout the borough.
The project received support from Queens College, Social Practice Queens, the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, as well as the Flushing Interfaith Council.