More than 200 Christians and Muslims gathered Monday in North Arlington to listen to a man who has tried to bring those two faiths together half a world away — and has been punished for it.
They sat together in the social hall of the Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ to hear by President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
The Rev. Paolo Dall'Oglio, an Italian Jesuit, said he was removed from that country for speaking publicly against the government and for his own attempts at pulling people of different faiths and cultures together.
Father Paolo spoke about the diverse population and belief systems in Sryia and his ideas on how that country can peacefully transition to a democratic state.
"We are anguished today in Syria," he said. "The revolution is winning on the ground with enormous suffering. I have seen this with my eyes."
In April, United Nations special emissary Kofi Annan praised the deployment of 300 monitors to help control the increasingly violent revolution against Assad's regime.
Father Paolo said the country needs 30,000.
"The people asking for freedom and democracy have been tortured, jailed and kicked out of the country," he said. "We have to bring back power to those who have been put aside by the violence of the regime. We need more politicians. We need more discussion. We need more democracy on the ground, on the grass level. For this, we need the help of the international community. Otherwise, only the weapons will dictate the destiny of my country."
Mahmoud Khattab, chairman of the Syrian American Council, said the United States needs to assume a more forceful leadership role.
"Americans are human beings," Khattab said. "Every single human being should care what's going on in Syria... Unless the United States moves, things will get messy. The whole world is wating for the leadership of the United States."
An offering was collected for the Syrian Sunrise Foundation, a nonprofit that makes donations to families, orphans and widows in need of humanitarian aid in Syria.