CHICAGO (FinalCall.com) – Muslims, Christians, Jews and believers in various faith traditions from around the globe converged on the Nation of Islam’s National Center to hear the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan launch a New Beginning. Between the renovated mosque, Muhammad University of Islam, a huge white tent on the grounds of the National Center Oct. 19 and overflow seats on the parking lot, over 7,500 people heard the Minister’s message about the commonality of faith, the need to renew humanity, the expanded reach of the Nation and its unflinching devotion to uplifting Blacks in America and the world.
They came from all walks of life: Black, Brown, Yellow, Red and White. Black men who made history at the 1995 Million Man March. Single mothers with small children, celebrities, imams and scholars, students, businessmen and women and educators.
It was sunny, clear and 58 degrees outside that morning. The young and elderly began lining up at least four hours earlier than the doors were scheduled to open for a program scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.
Gloria Shabazz traveled from Cincinnati, Ohio, with her daughter and grandson. They were first in line behind the 12-foot black iron gates that led to the mosque entrance. “I’ve been a follower of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad since 1963 and I love Min. Farrakhan and his family. I think everyone who is not with him should be because this is a time that we should all get together and unite. He is one of the most astute ministers in the world, and it’s an honor always to be in his presence,” Ms. Shabazz said.
“The Minister and the day were spectacular, enlightening and evolving. I didn’t have a lot of expectations because if you study, then you know that the root of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s teachings is universal,” added Patricia Muhammad of Chicago, who attended with children, Sarinah, 7, Amaria, 10, Aliyah, 14, Yusuf, 13, and 17-year-old Joshua.
“I think this new beginning is a great thing. Right now in these times, we’re on the verge of us electing a Black president, hopefully, and phenomenal things are happening. The Nation’s evolving is a part of that and this will hopefully help to grow the Nation into its place in middle and main America,” said Darren Jackson, a 43-year-old Black Chicagoan who brought his two daughters to hear Min. Farrakhan. He first heard the Minister when he was 18-years-old. Mr. Jackson said.
Civil rights activist Rev. Willie T. Barrow was another proud attendee. She was overjoyed to see the coming together of believers in God across lines of faith. “The time has come for us to come together to save our children, our families and the world,” she said. “I believe God made one world. He made enough for us to survive in it together. The tragedy on Wall Street is to remind us of the tragedies on Main Street every day.”
Archbishop George Augustus Stallings, Jr., senior pastor and founder of the Imani Temple African American Catholic Congregation, said, “Today we heard one of the most prophetic messages and challenges that could ever be presented to humanity–that that we must return to be become what God desired us to be from the beginning–one family under God.The Minister put it very plainly. We have allowed ourselves to move away from God’s right way, which would have been God’s idea of religion for us that we would all be under the same umbrella in the same tent. And we have by our disobedience gone our own separate ways and created our own human constructs of religion.As a result of that, we’ve not been drawn back to God and to each other but separated and divided.The challenge now that the Minister is presenting is that we really become the people that God created us to be in the spiritual context and not in the manly context, that we truly allow God’s way to be our way and no longer man’s human constructs or inventions of who they want God to be,” he said.
Archbishop Stallings said his congregation was started because the Roman Catholic Church “was not large enough to embrace the cultural needs and spiritual aspirations of people of color. We had to create a separate, independent, autonomous church, the Imani Temple African American Catholic Congregation.Maybe what the Minister did is to issue a call for Roman Catholics and African American Catholics under the umbrella of the African American Catholic Congregation to be reconciled and truly do it the right way, God’s way, instead of our own way.”
“We came to share the celebration of the unity of Allah, unity of Muslims all around the world and the oneness of the religion. We are really delighted to be among our brothers from America as we are one Muslim community around the world,” said Sheik Balla Samb, representative of the Senegalese community in Chicago. Imam Dr. Ahmed Rufai, a native of Ghana who recited an Islamic prayer at the start of the mosque rededication program, added, “It was a wonderful and exciting moment and we thank Allah for this new beginning and we pray that it blossoms and affects us all.”
Habib Drame, representative of the West African community in Chicago, declared, “We are glad to answer Min. Farrakhan’s call. We are one body. We are going to follow him. Wherever and when he calls us, we will answer.”
“This is the dream that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad had that is being realized now for the Nation of Islam in the United States which is a small part of the Muslim world. Now we are one people, no difference, one voice,” said Ali Baghdadi, editor of the Arab Journal and onetime columnist for the Muhammad Speaks newspaper and The Final Call, who had a long association with the patriarch of the Nation of Islam.
“This will bring a lot of happiness throughout the world. I’m so happy that the dream has been realized. Many Muslims wanted this to happen very quick but with a dead people, a mentally dead people, you cannot give them medicine at one time. You have to take time and give them their medicine properly. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad is very happy,” he added.
According to Conrad Worrill, chairman of the National Black United Front, “It was a profound and prophetic spiritual message that lays the history and tradition of what is formerly called religion and their true tenets in dealing with where we are at this time in history, in terms of what is called the human family and the divisions within the world that is leading us to strife and conflict and all of the things that prevent humanity from reaching its full potential.”
“I think today was very significant. It was surprising and to be honest I didn’t know what to expect because there were some things that caught me that were new but Min. Farrakhan was so beautiful, so eloquent and so elevated in what he taught that I feel very good and I feel a lot of inspiration for the future,” said Malik Zulu Shabazz, national chairman of the New Black Panther Party, who was among guests inside the mosque sanctuary.
Prince Asiel Ben Israel, of the African Hebrew Israelites, was present when the Minister welcomed Black representatives of the three Abrahamic traditions to the mosque dedication in 1988. The rededication reflects that same spirit of understanding the oneness of God, said the ambassador.
“I think what the Minister is calling us to, and not just the Nation, is a new day in which the principles of God overrules our religions, our denominations, our different faiths,” observed Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of Saint Sabina Church. Father Pfleger is a strong community activist and the pastor of a predominantly Black congregation on the south side of Chicago. He is also Caucasian.
“There’s only one thing we’re supposed to reflect and that’s the image and likeness of God and that’s the Minister’s charge that he’s putting out to all of us. If we go forward with that hunger and that thirst, all of the barriers, rituals and things that pull us apart will begin to fall to the ground and we’ll be based on truth, on love and on brotherhood and sisterhood and that’s the beauty of the new day.”
Father Pfleger added that he was not surprised by what the Minister said. “This is who he is and I think he’s raising it to a new level of consciousness for everybody.What I pray for today is that people had the ears to hear and can receive it and understand that when we begin to let that fall, all these things that keep us apart and understand the true oneness of which God calls all of us, we’re all sisters and brothers,” he said.
(Richard Muhammad and Nisa Islam Muhammad contributed to this report.)