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Interfaith Celebration On Long Island Shows Unity On Christmas Day

WESTBURY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) - An interfaith celebration of the holiday took place on Long Island Tuesday, pairing volunteers from a church and a mosque.

It's an effort to show unity among two traditions for a common good.

You could call it a blended family - ancient cousins of sorts - celebrating together.

Westbury Muslims joined with their Christian neighbors.

"We work together as a family," said Dr. Isma Chaudry of the Islamic Center of Long Island. "Coming together as one people being each others keepers, celebrating together, that is what a community does."

It's what this community has been doing for four years. Westbury United Methodist Church joined with volunteers from the nearby Islamic Center of Long Island to make Christmas merry for 200 homeless and struggling families, CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported.

Different faiths coming together to find common ground, united by the belief to put "love thy neighbor as thyself" into practice.

"We all are Abrahamic faiths, and even the faiths that are not Abrahamic, calls us to our higher selves and calls us to always look after those among us that are less fortunate," said Rev. Elon Sylvester of the Westbury United Methodist Church.

"It is a beautiful day, just look around you. The diversity and everyone is here with one thing in mind: Love thy neighbor," said one attendee.

The annual Christmas feast fills a growing need.

"There are families living in together in a room, five people in a room. They are not able to prepare a meal for their family," said volunteer Rose Walker.

Santa's helpers of all ages, Muslims and Christians, serve up more than a meal. They serve up tolerance and understanding, Gusoff reported.

"We want to make sure our kids see how we need to live in this diverse nation, county," said volunteer Faisal Zakaria.

Many of the volunteers are college kids on break, returning year after year.

"I see the world as one family, we can fight a war together, we can all share things together," said volunteer Giordan Walker.

"So much of the Koran and the Bible are so intertwined, with Jesus such a prominent figure in our faith as much as Christianity. So I think similarities is a great way to bring people together," said volunteer Ahmed Chaudhry.

Islamic Center leaders say they also often partner with area synagogues, and hope next year to expand the Christmas tradition to include volunteers of other faiths.

Children were given gifts and families were sent home with clothing and other essentials.

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