Billboards in Peoria urge the community to ‘pray and act’ to end racism

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A message on Peoria billboards urging community members to pray and act to end racism is garnering the attention of many. Reaching three different religions as they are now coming together to spread this message of unity.

Motorists driving down Pioneer Parkway or War Memorial Drive near Northwoods Mall may have seen a billboard promoting a message to end racism. They are sponsored by the Islamic Foundation of Peoria and board member Dr. Jamaluddin Amanullah said after recent racial unrest, he and his religion had to say something.

“We’ve been watching with much dis-tray and sadness what has been transpiring around the country and thought it was our moral obligation to speak up,” Amanullah said. “We thought it would be immoral to sit on the sidelines and not make a point about it.”

Dr. Amanullah said he reached out to multiple churches, mosques and synagogues bringing together Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Amanullah said all three religions have similar origins.

“The holy Qaran and all Abrahamic faiths say all men and women were created from a single man and woman,” Amanullah said.

Executive pastor at Richwoods Christian Church Tom Butler said when Dr. Amanullah reached out he knew he had to say yes.

“Who would not be delighted for the opportunity to speak out against racism,” Butler said. “We’ve been blessed to have a good working relationship with Imam at the mosque behind us.”

Sue Katz executive director of theJewish Federation of Peoria said it’s about coming together for one common goal.

“It’s really important to take a stand and show that while we may have our differences, we certainly stand together on this issue and we’re stronger together than we are apart,” Katz said.

Katz said it’s important we have these tough conversation to prevent travesties in the future.

“If we don’t this is what happens,” Katz said “I’m standing in the middle of a Holocaust memorial. Six million Jews died at the hands of Nazis because of religious discrimination.”

Butler said conversations about race can be tough, but are needed so real change can happen.

“It’s so systemic and deep in our culture, it’s hard at times to even identify it, but we know it’s there and so it’s important to bring those conversations to light and begin making differences,” Butler said.

Amanullah said he hopes people view these messages as a call to action, urging them not to judge a book by its cover.

“There are bad apples in every community,”Amanullah said. “So take a step back and look at the person and then make a judgement to what he or she is doing.”

He’s not sure how long the messages will be up but he’s hoping it reaches everyone before its taken down.

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