2nd Interfaith Prayer Amidst Coronavirus Pandemic
The Universal Peace Federation (UPF) USA’s second weekly Interfaith Prayer for the Nation and the World was excitedly convened on Thursday, April 16 at 3 PM (EST). The brief mid-week program features representatives from different faith traditions who offer prayers, comments, and scriptural readings to those linked remotely by zoom views and audio.
Dr. Michael Jenkins, Chairman of UPF-North America, spoke from his home in Virginia of the importance and power of prayer in bringing about change in ourselves and the world around us.
Prayer brings us closer to God. Prayer gives us the ability to unite with each other. In praying for healing and understanding that those affected by loss of life and illness can be truly healed, we recognize that all faiths teach that prayer can bring the power of healing. He testified that God has power over all things but requires some conditions for people to come forward to petition God to bring healing.
Pastor Dante King, of Forward Church in Prince Georges County, MD who attended the World Summit program held in early February in South Korea, borrowed insight from a scriptural reading of Psalm 46. David cries out that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble”. We should not be afraid because “though the waters roar and be troubled” we are reminded that there is a river that belongs to God, and a city of God. At a time when everyone is called to “shelter in place”, we should be grateful that the God we serve is a shelter in place, our refuge.
Iman Talib Sharif, leader of the Nation’s Mosque, who also attended the World Summit in Korea and was one of the faith leaders selected to pray before 30,000 at the Cheongshim Peace Center, began with acknowledging Almighty God’s bounty and blessings exceeds our ability to measure or count.
He spoke of the God who recognizes all of us and loves us all equally. COVID 19 is not racist though there will be greater disparities in communities where there are fewer resources. It is not nationalist though in some nations there will be more suffering. With half the world on lockdown with physical, mental, and spiritual pause all faiths are challenged with keeping the faith alive – as they are during persecution, war, and adverse times. But never have all our faiths been challenged like this at the same time.
Know God apportions goodness and wisdom throughout human history, and though we are being tested these tests are temporary. With God’s help, we will overcome. His reading from the Koran: “Be sure, we shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods, lives and the fruits of your toil. But give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere.” Through patience and endurance of being tested, of turning toward universal kinship, we are called to our potential goodness, to be able to say we belong to Almighty God.
Archbishop George Augustus Stallings, a leader of a movement of independent Catholicsthroughout America, co-founder of the American Clergy Leadership Conference, founder of the American Catholic Congregation and the Imani Temple, and on the founding committee of IAPD, chair of IAPD North America welcomed all who believe in one God. Regardless of the name we use to approach God, we know we are children of God and that we proceed from the handiwork of God.
Referring to Psalm 139, “I give you thanks oh God that I am fearfully and wonderfully made”, we are reminded that each one of us is an expression of a God that is all-present and all-knowing. Each one of us in this time of global pandemic is laying ourselves down like a bridge over troubled waters. The beauty of this providential moment is in God’s timing as for the opportunity of religious leaders and men and women of deep, abiding faith who trust in our Creator with all that is within us and to seize this moment for a way to stand together as one.
Even while socially and physically distanced from one another, we stand together as spiritually one to show the world community that as believers we embrace the concept of one God and do not allow race or ethnicities, denomination, creed, social, economic or political backgrounds to separate us. We applaud the different paths by which we approach the same God, we are all on the path to the same destination. It does not matter what vehicle we use to get to the same destination. This is a time while in the diversity of our religious traditions we can demonstrate that there is one common element that inextricably binds us together as brothers and sisters, that we are one family under God.
Venerable Dr. Phramaha Thanat Inthisan, President of International Buddhist Association of America, read the Buddha’s words: “All tremble at punishment. All fear death. Comparing others with oneself, one should neither kill nor cause one to kill.”
He read and translated from a Sutra how about the teaching of and loving-kindness: those who wish to reach a state of peace should do the right thing: to speak in a good way, be gentle in humble, should be content, kind and thoughtful, and should not greedy. They should not do anything that will cause blame. May all beings be happy to have their hearts upright. Let no one tell a lie, hurt anyone, be angry with anyone. May all beings are strong, all be happy. Tell no lies. Hurt no one or be angry with anyone. Just as a mother protects her only child, let everyone have a kind heart towards all living beings. Let love go all over to all persons in the world. Let everyone be mindful when standing, sitting, or lying down. It is the best way to be.
He concluded with an expression of kindness and loving compassion for all people all over the world. May all beings be free from enmity. May all beings be free from ill-treatment, enmity, free from troubles and suffering. May all living beings be able to protect their happiness, be happy in body and mind.
The participants from across the USA joined in a brief silent group prayer to conclude the program.
On Thursday, April 23, at 1:00 PM EST, UPF USA will continue this weekly outreach in bringing people of different faiths together in a larger communion to pray for the Nation and the World.
The live recordings of the Prayer for the Nation and the World can be found on UPF USA’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/watch/UPFAmerica/
Contributed by: Tomiko Duggan, Senior Vice President of UPF USA