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Interfaith group in talks with Marriott

Local jobs and economic development opportunities could result from negotiations between Marriott Corp. and National Peoples Action, an alliance of religious, community and neighborhood organizations that includes St. Petersburg's Congregations United for Community Action.

An announcement of the negotiations was made Saturday evening by Abul Karim Ali, co-chairman of CUCA, during the organization's annual banquet, held this year at Temple Beth-El, 400 Pasadena Ave. S.

Preliminary discussions between the corporation and the 25-year-old National Peoples Action took place Tuesday and Wednesday in Chicago, Ali said.

Talks, however, are at a delicate stage and nothing will be decided until Aug. 7, said Jim Barrens, organizer of CUCA, an interfaith organization representing 12 major faiths in 32 congregations.

"We believe that after the Aug. 7 and 8 meeting that we'll be able to announce an agreement about major job creation, career opportunities and economic development," said Ali, who also is pastor of the Masjid Al-Muhajirun Muslim congregation in St. Petersburg. "We give our thanks and gratitude to Marriott Corp. for meeting with us, and we look forward to a partnership with them."

What Marriott would do in St. Petersburg was not made clear at Saturday's meeting, and Ali said he could not provide details of what local effect the national group's work might have.

"We have promised we won't discuss that," Ali said.

Marriott has a presence in St. Petersburg by providing food service at Eckerd College.

Announcement of the Marriott negotiations was part of the evening's events, which also included a pledge of brotherhood, fellowship and cooperation between two local religious leaders _ one Jewish and white, the other Christian and black.

The crowd of about 150 applauded as Rabbi Stephen Moch of Temple Beth-El and the Rev. Manuel Sykes of Bethel Community Baptist Church pledged their commitment and that of their congregations to work together for peace and justice in St. Petersburg. To seal their covenant, Moch presented Sykes with a copy of the Torah and Sykes, in turn, gave him a copy of an African-American study Bible.

Their promise to work together followed a stirring appeal for such alliances by keynote speaker the Rev. Henry J. Lyons, president of the 8.5-million member National Baptist Convention USA Inc. and pastor of Bethel Metropolitan Baptist Church in St. Petersburg.

Speaking about the arsons and desecrations that have plagued congregations and the animosity that has arisen between blacks and whites, Lyons said: "Organizations like CUCA must take a firm stand against hate. We must find ways to build relations . . . find ways to bridge the gaps."