Editorial: Local events that unify, not divide, are a model for America

Last weekend, many of the national headlines focused on the so-called lecture given to Vice President-elect Mike Pence by the cast of Hamilton, the Broadway musical.

The exchange was catapulted into the spotlight when President-elect Trump expressed his displeasure in a series of tweets.

Division spread across the country - just as it has throughout the presidential campaign and since Trump won the election on Nov. 8.

But here, in the suburbs, two weekend events caught our eye not for the division they caused but for the hope of unity they espoused. On this, Thanksgiving Eve, that's a hope that needs more attention.

On Saturday, a Schaumburg Township mosque held an open house that drew 400 people in a standing-room-only crowd.

On Sunday, nearly 1,300 people jammed St. Mary Catholic Church in Buffalo Grove for an annual interfaith service that brings members of local Christian and Jewish congregations (10 in all) together in prayer and celebration. These followed a Naperville interfaith assembly (representing more than 25 churches, mosques, temples and other organizations) last week, again attended by a standing-room-only crowd.

The themes of all these gatherings were similarly stated: "While the campaign has focused on what divides us, we know that there are more fundamental things that unite us," said the Rev. Jim Honig, senior pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn.

"Our nation is in the middle of a difficult time, filled with division and hardness," said Rabbi Lisa Bellows of Congregation Beth Am in Buffalo Grove. "We are in need of hope and healing. Help us to create a nation of love, not hate, filled with compassion, not prejudice."

And Salman Faiz, a board member at the Midwest Islamic Center near Schaumburg said simply: "Whether we want to accept it or not, we're all in this together."

Given the mood of the country - division, anger, angst, you name it - it's refreshing to see suburban residents doing their part to unify as opposed to pushing apart. These types of gatherings should be emulated elsewhere so Americans can begin to understand each other better and heal the rifts in our society.

That's why Kim Calabrese, a Carol Stream mother of two, brought her young children to the Islamic Center last weekend. "I really wanted them to be able to surround themselves with peers they might have come in the door thinking differently about than they did as we left. I think they get it, or at least I hope they will."

With her parenting, they are sure to achieve greater understanding.

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