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Religions Mix at Thanksgiving Service

3 December 2008 No Comment

By Mateen Kaul  —

Representatives of all of Fremont’s major faiths — with one notable exception — gathered at St Joseph’s Parish on Monday for a Thanksgiving service celebrating the religious diversity in the Tri-City area.

Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Thai Buddhists, Baha'is and Ohlone Indians dressed in colorful traditional costumes read prayers and performed songs and dances during the 90-minute program at the church in Mission San Jose, the 46th of its kind organized by the Tri-City Interfaith Council, said its president Reverend Chris Schriner.

However, representatives of one of the largest religions in Fremont, Hinduism, were conspicuous in their absence. Hinduism is the native religion of India and some 35,000 Indians live in Fremont, according to the 2006 American Community Survey of the US Census.

Fremont Vice Mayor Anu Naturajan, a frequenter of the city's prominent Hindu temple, attended as a city representative. She said she was impressed by the unifying theme of the event, but surprised that there were no Hindu representatives. "I'm gonna make sure they attend next year," she said.

Reverend Chris Schriner, president of the Tri-City Interfaith Council, said he had tried to reach out to the Hindu temple to get representatives at the event. Language problems might have hindered their communication, he said.

He said the Thanksgiving service was a unique opportunity for the religious groups in Fremont to interact because of its  tremendous diversity. "The talking and chance to mingle that we have after is as important as the service itself," he said as guests tucked into refreshment following the program.

Ayaz Yousaf, director of the Islamic Educational and Cultural Research Center in Union City, said the Thanksgiving service gave Muslims a chance to show other people what Islam was about, rather than have them learn it first hand. "It also gave me some exposure. For example, it was the first time I saw the Baha'is," he said.

The organizers collected canned goods and money for the Tri-City League of Volunteers at the event.

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