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Place of Residence: New Jersey
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Why he is a local hero: Osborne is working to bring people of different faiths together to solve many of today’s problems.
The way Pastor Osborne sees it, people of different faiths waste too much time arguing about things that aren’t important while issues, such as drug addiction and youth gang violence, go unaddressed.
“There are so many faiths divided in the community. Everyone thinks they are going to heaven and that the other person is wrong. It breaks my heart because for years I have been in the street teaching the gospel of unity. I’m a Christian. I believe Jesus Christ is the son of God, but everyone doesn’t think like me. The question is what can we do to help the children,” says Osborne.
Osborne has tackled this issue by entering into a variety of interfaith efforts, including the Newark Interfaith Coalition for Hope and Peace. The group supports other grassroots organizations seeking to stem the tide of violence in and around Newark. The most dramatic of Osborne’s efforts, though, may be that Muslims, Christians, and Jehovah Witnesses alike attend Bethel Family and Youth Resource Center, his Newark, N.J., church.
It started a few years ago when Osborne ran an intensive life skills program that helped people dealing with addiction issues. Afterward, many of his attendees, who are of various faiths, began showing up at his church, because they felt a sense of togetherness at Osborne’s church.
During the services, Christians say, “Hallelujah,” and the Muslims say, “Alluh Akbar.” Muslims teach Christians Arabic, and there is an overall greater understanding and respect of one another’s faith. And that’s what is needed to challenge many of the social problems plaguing America today, says Osborne.
“Let us pastors and imams go out into the street at 2 a.m., where people are shooting one another. Let’s create employment. Let’s work together. I long for pastors and imams to unite and say, ‘We don’t have same theology, but let’s do what we have to do,’” says Osborne.
The move hasn’t come without criticism. Some think what Osborne’s doing is heretical, but Osborne sees proof of the opposite in the lives of the changed men and women of different faiths who step in to his church every week. It appears that many critics are actually fearful of what can be accomplished when people of different faiths come together around common goals.
“The only way to do this is to try and bring people together, where a Jewish can go to a masjid, a Muslim can go to a church, and a Christian can go to a synagogue,” said Osborne.