Clockwise from left,  Father Chris Welch, pastor of St. Cecilia in Fonda and Sacred Heart in Tribes Hill; Imam Abdul-Rahman Yaki, senior imam of the Islamic Center of the Capital District in Schenectady; Rabbi Yaakov Kellman, executive director for Jewish Educational Resources of New York (JERNY); and Reverend Jay Richmond, president of Renewal Prayer Network and an evangelical preacher, speak at the Interfaith Perspective Addressing Anger and Hatred. (Emily Benson photo)
Clockwise from left, Father Chris Welch, pastor of St. Cecilia in Fonda and Sacred Heart in Tribes Hill; Imam Abdul-Rahman Yaki, senior imam of the Islamic Center of the Capital District in Schenectady; Rabbi Yaakov Kellman, executive director for Jewish Educational Resources of New York (JERNY); and Reverend Jay Richmond, president of Renewal Prayer Network and an evangelical preacher, speak at the Interfaith Perspective Addressing Anger and Hatred. (Emily Benson photo)
There’s a lot of anger in the world these days, and Reverend Bruce Hersey is, at times, overwhelmed by it. 

“We have a lot to do for the people of our country,” Rev. Hersey said. “I’ve seen so many miracles in my life … and whatever time I have left is to help people to work together.”

Rev. Hersey, director of the Northeastern New York chapter of the New York State Chaplain Task Force, couldn’t answer why there was so much hatred between opposing groups in this country, but with some help, he wanted to try. A man of faith and a chaplain for years, Rev. Hersey turned to the experts, asking leaders of various religious communities to come together and discuss how anger and hatred — and hopefully forgiveness — are dealt with in their beliefs. 

“The Interfaith Perspective Addressing Anger and Hatred,” organized by the New York State Chaplain Task Force, was held on July 21 at the Church of St. Clare’s gymnasium. The four religious representatives included: Father Chris Welch, pastor of St. Cecilia in Fonda and Sacred Heart in Tribes Hill; Rabbi Yaakov Kellman, executive director for Jewish Educational Resources of New York (JERNY); Imam Abdul-Rahman Yaki, senior imam of the Islamic Center of the Capital District in Schenectady; and Reverend Jay Richmond, president of Renewal Prayer Network and an evangelical preacher. 

“This is an answer to a prayer,” said Hersey in his opening remarks. “And I think there is hope in how we can learn to address hatred and anger.”

The four panelists each addressed four main questions: when is anger helpful or hurtful; how each faith helps them to deal with anger; how can we deal with such hate in our community; and how do we counter those who believe violence is a way to deal with hate?

“One issue with anger is getting to know each other,” said Father Welch. “St. Paul reminds us to pray for our enemies, and it’s hard to be angry with someone you’re praying for and trying to get to know.”

Across the board, many faith leaders gave similar advice: to try loving your enemy by getting to know those who are different than you; to practice emotional intelligence and empathy; and to practice prayer to help ease anger and bring out forgiveness. 

“There is so much hate out there,” said Rev. Richmond, “but Jesus tells us to forgive whether we agree with others or not … God forgave us, so we must forgive as well.”

“I’ve known anger quite well,” said Rabbi Yaakov Kellman. “If I’m annoyed or displeased I might be hostile, but if we look at it as an emotion it takes over and it consumes me and I can’t think of anything else.” 

Imam Abdul-Rahman Yaki agreed, noting that it’s key not to let anger consume us, and try to separate the evil or angering act from the person doing it. “God has given us a machine,” the imam said, pointing to his brain, “one that makes us special, it makes us think. We hate the evil that is done, but not the doer of the evil.”

“Islam says to be patient,” he added. When you’re going through what you’re going through … learn to appreciate one another. Investigate. Inquire. So we don’t hurt innocent people.”

Father Welch recalled the story of the “Christmas Eve Truce” of 1914. During World War I, a group of British soldiers heard German troops in the trenches opposite them singing carols and lighting lanterns. The two groups agreed to a one-night truce for the sake of the holiday. The soldiers met in no man’s land and traded tobacco and wine, took photos and played football. The next day, some soldiers recorded difficulty in going back to fighting their enemy.

“The more you get to know each other,” said Father Welch, “the harder it is to hate them.”

The hardest part, of course, is putting words into action. But if our anger and emotions start to get the better of us, all we can be asked to do is try. 

“Patience, patience, patience,” Imam advised. “You’re not Jesus, you’re not Muhammad, you are a human with limits.”