At least 200 people gathered downtown on Fountain Square during their lunch hour today to take part in a multi-faith, women-led prayer service for peace in response to recent outbursts of Islamaphobia.
The event, co-sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati and Christ Church Cathedral, is a response by faith community in Cincinnati to the recent uptick in anti-Muslim sentiments across the country in the wake of the recent deadly attacks in San Bernardino, California and Paris.
The event featured an all-female lineup of 13 faith leaders representing Baptist, Buddhist, Catholic, Espiscopalian, Hindu, Jewish, Morman, Sikh and Unitarian communities.
"For us to stand together on basically our town square, makes an incredible statement," says Shakila Ahmad, president of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati in Westchester. "And I hope it makes a statement to cities across the country where mothers and sisters and daughters need to stand up for their children because this is impacting our kids in unbelievably horrible ways."
Ahmad said she teamed up with Michelle Young of the American Jewish Community and several other faith leaders at another prayer service and decided they needed to do something about the recent rise in intolerance against the Muslim-American Community.
Ahmad said once the prayer service was decided, they had Fountain Square booked within 15 minutes.
For Young, the current backlash against Muslim-Americans was reminiscent of the way the Jewish community was treated at the beginning of Nazis rule of Germany.
"I thought, this is how it must of felt in the beginning as a Jew in Germany in Berlin. Hate talk is not even responded to with love. We're just quiet, wondering if it's true," she says.
The message of love and tolerance of diversity was reiterated by most speakers to a crowd of many races and religions. Some woman wore hijabs while other carried signs with Bible passages on them.
"What I like about you is that I see the United States right here. Because I see a diverse crowd gathered together in peace and in harmony and love. This is the country I know. This is the country I was born into," said Reverend Sharon Dittmar of the First Unitarian Church in Cincinnati at the prayer service.
Some also spoke of messages of unity among women and communities of faith.
"For alone we may be only a small flame, but uniting together may we create a great light diminishing the blackness of despair, of bigotry and hatred bringing forth reconciliation, hope and understanding," said Rabbi Margaret Meyer, president of the Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati to the crowd.
Ahmad of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati says they focused on woman for the prayer service because women typically are loving and look out for each other and their children, but also to slash through another common stereotype held against the Islamic community.
"In my own faith of Islam, women, contrary to what people think, have incredible respect and power," she says.