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Local religious leaders provide hopeful bond in time of adversity

Once more in the wake of tragedy, the area's clergy leaders assembled to pray for the dead and pray for the future. Many times in the past, clerics have assembled to offer religious knowledge and understanding of the world's violence. This time it took place at St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in Buffalo for a series of recent troubling events: the Ukrainian airliner shot down by Iran, the earthquakes in Puerto Rico, the Australian bush fires and the rise of anti-Semitic incidents.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

The clergy were from Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Network of Religious Communities Executive Director Rev. Stan Bratton was in Pittsburgh at the time of the attack on Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue. Bratton reminded the audience the world can be small.

"An attack on a mosque in New Zealand is personal for Muslims living in Western New York. A shooting in a synagogue in Germany is personal to Jews living in Western New York. A hurricane in Puerto Rico is personal to people who have come from that island and live in Western New York," Bratton said.

The speakers made clear how often faith is relied upon for comfort in bad times and offers a path to hope for a better future. Temple Beth Zion Rabbi Jonathan Freirich said it is this religious collaboration that offers hope in the future.

"One by one, fill the chain of support that allows us to climb from the narrowest of the views to clear our sights and see what must be done to bring light into the darkness and share that light with the world," Freirich said. "We light that torch of redemption, of salvation, of change, of progress together."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

Those in the congregation were asked to come forward with small paper stars to write names or issues that concerned them. Rev. Craig Pridgen, senior pastor of True Bethel Baptist Church in Niagara Falls, said religion can be as helpful in the wider world as a football coach can be in the halftime locker room of a losing team.

"We have been faced with adversity. We have been faced with death. We have been faced with tragedy, but I'm glad I get to be the coach during halftime, to let us all know that regardless of how difficult things seem, the game is not over. There's still another half," Pridgen said.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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