In response to the horrific shooting at a high school in Floriday, MVPJ member Craig Wiesner wrote an article for Tikkun Daily Blog. Start it here then go to the Tikkun website to read the whole piece.
"Thoughts and Prayers? What the Prophet Isaiah Said"
17 more dead. “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.” Sackcloth, ashes, bowing your head… Actually, on the night 17 people were killed in Florida, I thought to myself that maybe my husband and I should fast. We didn’t. We did sit and watch the news as details of the mass shooting at a high school in Florida were slowly revealed. We closed our eyes in prayer, feeling helpless, angry, sad.
17 dead, the shooter in custody, parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, neighbors, grieving. A chorus rings out “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.” Two words come to mind when I hear or read that phrase coming from people in power who could do so much more than think and pray. Then, yesterday, the pastor of our church asked me if I would lead the Time for the Child in us all at church this Sunday. “What’s the scripture?” I asked. Curious? Read on!
Isaiah 58:1-5 English Standard Version (ESV)
True and False Fasting
“Cry aloud; do not hold back;
lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
Monthly Multifaith Prayers for Peace
In the midst of difficult times, Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice will host “Peaceful Presence,” a monthly prayer service on the evening of the 11th of each month, offering a time of quiet multifaith prayers for peace and strength for the journey. All are welcome: those of all faith traditions and of no defined faith, those who are suffering at the hands of their own government, those who need a pause in the midst of intensive work on behalf of others, and all who would like to pray with others for the well-being of all. The prayer time will include elements from several religious traditions.
Multifaith Voices for Peace & Justice (MVPJ) has set up a process which will allow us to respond quickly with publicly visible acts of solidarity on behalf of any religious, ethnic, or other vulnerable communities in our local area which are being threatened, or which have been harmed or violated in some way. Examples of triggers could be receipt of hate mail, defacing of property, threats to the well-being of the community or to a member of the community. Our goal is to gather in response and public solidarity within 24-48 hours of learning about the incident. These MVPJ solidarity responses will be faithful, peaceful demonstrations of solidarity and friendship, and do not require the training necessary for the Rapid Response teams who will be possibly confronting ICE agents or raids. Supportive, peaceful, faith-based signs may be brought by participants to these public solidarity events.
When an action is needed, our email subject title will be “IMMEDIATE LOCAL RESPONSE NEEDED”, and the body of the email will include instructions as to where and when to gather.
If your community is targeted or threatened in some way, and you want to ask for a public show of solidarity, or simply discuss this possibility, please contact us through this email: email@example.com. You may certainly talk with anyone on the MVPJ steering committee personally if you prefer, however the "firstname.lastname@example.org" email is set up to be checked several times every day, for a quick response.
If your community is required to evacuate its premises due to an emergency such as a bomb threat or threatening graffiti and needs an alternate space for worship or study on short notice, we have several congregations who are willing to host you if at all possible. You may inquire about this offer through email@example.com and we will help you connect to these communities as quickly as possible.
Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice Non-Violent Commitment
In all actions that it takes, members of Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice commit to the principles of non-violence, and pledge that all their actions will be peaceful, respectful, prayerful and non-violent.
Please join in the prayers and pleas for compassion as shared by the Elijah Interfaith Institute:
"Saddened by the suffering of Rohingiya people, which has been added to the suffering of so many other human being during the last few weeks, we, Buddhist and Muslim Leaders, associated with the Elijah Interfaith Institute, as well as leaders of other faith traditions, invoke the timeless aspiration of humankind for compassion and love, and yearning for guidance, succor, and help from supra-human realms so powerfully captured in the two prayers below—one from Buddhist sources and the second from the opening chapter of the Quran. We wish to recall this common teaching and high moral and spiritual yearning of the human soul at this point in time, especially in view of the suffering of the Rohingiya Muslims who are being persecuted and are suffering due to policies of a Buddhist majority state."
Over 200 people braved the thunder and rain on King Plaza in Palo Alto for a Peace Picnic followed by Multifaith Prayers for Peace & Justice. (For the words of the poem read at the picnic, click here.) The program included all ages, many faith traditions and people from diverse ethnicities and backgrounds.
Gathering songs were led by Chris Lundin of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic parish, and the Mitzvah Singers from Congregation Etz Chaim, both in Palo Alto.
Other musical offerings came from Baha'i singers Mahrou Derakshani and Chris French, young adults from the Sathya Sai International Organization, Region 7, and a children's choir from Congregation Beth Am.
The Sound of the Shofar, an Islamic Call to Prayer, a Christian Call to Worship and a Buddhist invitation to silence called us together, and Rabbi Amy Eilberg welcomed us into community and prayer. Speakers included Cantor Jaime Shpall from Congregation Beth Am (pictured with the children's choir above), Farha Andrabi Navaid (pictured right) who is President of the MVPA Musalla, a worship and community center for Muslims in the Palo Alto area, Rev. Fa Jun, a Buddhist/Interfaith minister from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Los Gatos (pictured left), and Rev. Annanda Barclay from the First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto (pictured below in the closing circle). A Prayer of Lament was led by Farukh Basrai, from Anjuman-e-Jamali and MVPJ, and Rev. Mark Arevalo from Spark Church, Palo Alto.
Episcopal priest Rev. Frannie Hall Kieschnick led us in a closing ritual of circle, candlelight, song. Rev. Kaloma Smith of University AME Zion Church, along with Rev. Annanda Barclay, sent us out with the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King:
MVPJ holds Peaceful Presence Prayer gatherings on the 11th of every month.
We thank Chris Cassell and Alfred Leung, afflicates of Pro-Bono Photography for the wonderful photos! To see more great pictures taken by them, click here and here. If you share these photos, please be sure to give them credit!
O God of Many Names,
Mystery of all Creation,
Source of Life and Love,
You who teach our spirits to sing,
And our hearts to weep:
We gather to celebrate our oneness, to pray for peace, to stand for love, to light a candle -- in a nation and a world that seem filled with division, violence, hatred and darkness.
Give us courage to name and face the gaping wounds and evils around us:
The hatred that led to the attacks of September 11, 2001; the devastation and death of many innocent lives that day; the ensuing spiral of war, revenge and human rights violations, shattering lives in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and beyond, as well as lives of U.S. women and men in uniform, their families, communities, and friends.
Hatred and white supremacy – from Charlottesville to Palo Alto; xenophobia and bigotry that treat some people as disposable;
Nationalism that justifies war and torture, the build up of weapons of mass destruction, bans on Muslims and refugees, cruel immigration policies and the destruction of dreams;
Religious hypocrisy that denies the sacred image of God in each and every human being;
Ignorance that denies the real crisis of our planet, that offers weak platitudes rather than wise policies in the face of ecological catastrophe;
For all we do, and all we tolerate, that destroys the dreams of our children, of any child, for a chance to live in a just and peaceful world.
Many people asked about the wonderful poem written and read by Naiel Ahmed Chaudry (pictured left reading it at the picnic) during the Peace Picnic program.
"WE ARE BETTER TOGETHER"
... by Naiel Ahmed Chaudry
We can be boys and we can be girls
But altogether we'll shine like pearls
We can be black and we can be white
But altogether we'll have the might
We can be short and we can be tall
But altogether we'll never fall
We can be strong and we can be weak
But altogether we'll be unique
We can be poor and we can be rich
But altogether we'll make the switch
We can be fast and we can be slow
But altogether we'll make it flow
We can be right and we can be wrong
But altogether we will be strong!
We are collecting helpful resources from other organizations.
Here are some we have found so far:
Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Resource Guide - Great resource from Southern Poverty Law Center.
Do's and Don'ts for Bystander Intervention - A one page list of important guidelines from the American Friends Service Committee (a Quaker organization).
We at Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice stand with those vigil attendees in their proclamation that "love wins" and in declaring that hate is not welcome here.
We also acknowledge that what happened in Charlottesville is not new, perhaps only forgotten, as our history of racial, xenophobic and anti-semitic violence runs deep in American history. Our faiths demand that we stand up, name, confront, resist and defeat evil with love and in love's name and we welcome and honor all who share the same commitment.
Everyone here has constitutional rights, and that includes Muslims, immigrants and refugeees. The ACLU has Know Your Rights posters translated into 14 languages, and provides videos in Spanish, Arabic, Urdu and Farsi on what to do if stopped by immigrant agents or the police. Click here to access these important resources from the ACLU website, and share widely!
Knowing your rights is crucial, now more than ever.