Bishop Michael J. Coyner leads a prayer in the United Methodist tradition at an Interfaith Memorial Service to honor and remember Abdul-Rahman (Peter) Kassig for his life's work of humanitarian aid to the people of Syria.By: Skyler E. Nimmons*
INDIANAPOLIS – To Pat Engel, a diaconal minister at Epworth United Methodist Church, Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig was a bright young man who lived a life guided by Micah 6:8 to “love justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.”
Engel was among the speakers Sunday, Nov. 23, when hundreds gathered at an interfaith memorial service at Butler University to remember Kassig, a 26-year-old Indianapolis native who lost his life while providing humanitarian aid in Syria.
His parents, Ed and Paul Kassig attend Epworth United Methodist Church, Indianapolis, and the Rev. Dr. Bill Hoopes, Epworth’s senior pastor, participated in the service.
Throughout the service, speakers -- including Christian and Muslim leaders and Kassig’s family, friends and mentors -- shared what led him to leave a comfortable existence in Indianapolis to start an extraordinary journey of selflessness to provide aid to people of Syria.
Hoopes noted that those gathered were separated by diversity, but bound together in common grief.
“One of the blessings of Abdul-Rhaman’s life is the opportunity to begin a new way of being with each other,” he said, pointing to the need for further dialogue among Christian, Muslim, Jewish and other communities of faith to work for peace and understanding.
“We are not gathered here because of how Abdul Rahman passed; we are here because of how he lived,” said Hazem Bata, executive director of the Islamic Society of North America.
Bata noted that Abdul-Rahman’s life was dedicated to helping others who had been forgotten. Turning to Kassig’s parents, he said, “Life is a test and your son got an A+.”
In a prayer, Bishop Michael Coyner, resident bishop of the Indiana Conference, said, “We gather from divergent backgrounds united in grief, but also united in your ways of peace and justice. And remind all of us that we are all children of Abraham.”
A college friend, Joe Dages, offered more insight into why Kassig would leave his friends and family to work in Syria by sharing a quote from him: “I’m at my best and feel the most at peace among the chaos.”
Kassig was destined to do something great, Dages said, and he accomplished that destiny by dedicating his life to humanitarian aid.
Abdul Rahman Peter Kassig was abducted and taken hostage Oct. 1, 2013 while on a medical aid mission to Deir Ezour. Initially held in the same cell as a Muslim cleric, he converted and chose the name Abdul-Rahman, which means “servant of the most merciful.” His death was confirmed by the White House on Nov. 16 after a video surfaced claiming that the Islamic State group, also known as ISIL or ISIS, had killed him.
A memorial fund has been established in Kassig’s name to support the Syrian American Medical Society’s work in providing assistance in Syria. Click here to donate.
*Skyler E. Nimmons is the Communications Director of the Indiana Annual (regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church and resides in Indianapolis, Ind.