Beyond labels and ending religious divisionBy Ashahed M. Muhammad -Assistant Editor- | Last updated: Jun 25, 2014 - 10:32:49 AM
PHILADELPHIA—The First African Baptist Church of Philadelphia led by Rev. Terrence Griffith celebrated its 205th anniversary June 22 with the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan as the guest preacher.
“The Minister has something to say that our community needs to listen to,” said Rev. Griffith.
Although he received some criticism from colleagues indicating their displeasure with his invitation to Min. Farrakhan, the pastor was undeterred because problems in the Black community, such as drugs, prostitution, mass incarceration, need immediate solutions.
Rev. Griffith said Min. Farrakhan was a “man among men who speaks the undiluted word of God,” and after arriving on Sunday morning, June 22, that’s exactly what the Minister did.
Minister Farrakhan entered and was right at home in the venerable church which has served as a place for organizing, a resting place and a hiding place at various times during its history. Smiling and focused as a vessel of God’s word, the Minister spoke for a little over one hour.
“The world has lost its way and therefore this world, and the people of God have to be guided back,” said Min. Farrakhan. “You need preachers who will teach you the word of God in a way that makes learning a part of your living.”
He quickly dismissed any notion he came to foster division between Muslims and Christians. In fact, his very first point was 1.6 billon Muslims globally believe in Jesus, which came as a surprise to many in the audience. The time is now for an end to religious division, he noted.
“I love you and I would never let anyone take me away from you, my Christian family,” he said.
Juanita Robison was invited by her sister who is a member of the church and explained to The Final Call that her view was totally changed.
“Farrakhan gave me a better understanding of a Muslim. What I knew was totally wrong. There are more similarities between Muslims and Christians and we are all one people,” said Ms. Robison.
She said a Muslim once told her she was a Muslim but just didn’t know it yet, and she recalled being mildly offended. “Today, I finally understand what the brother was saying to me and it took Brother Farrakhan to say what he said today and he enlightened me,” she added.
Leandra Johnson, 20, came with her parents from Brooklyn, New York. This was the first time she had heard the Minister in person. She attends York College in Queens, New York.
“I thought it was very inspirational. It was absolutely amazing. I was a little bit hesitant because I am a Christian and he is a Muslim, but I learned something new today, that Muslims actually do believe in Jesus and I just realized that the division is unnecessary,” said Ms. Johnson.
Kiara Williamson, 15, came with her friend and heard a message on the oneness of religion which kind of surprised her, but she learned a lot.
“In school they teach you about the different religions and the different practices so I guess most people who are Christians think there is a divergence in religions,” said Ms. Williamson. “Being a Jew, Muslim or Christian, it makes no difference,” she said.
Royston Alexander Williamson said Minister Farrakhan was “a really good preacher.” Following the message, the 19-year-old still has some questions and will submit them via Twitter since he found out that the Minister answers questions via the microblogging tool.
“He’s a very humble man,” said Mr. Williamson. “I like his style of preaching. I like the message that he gave and he didn’t discriminate.”
Sybrina Fulton, the mother of slain Black youth Trayvon Martin was present for Min. Farrakhan’s message at the church, and afterwards, they had a private meeting in which the Minister gave her words of encouragement relating to her son and the future.