On January 1st Pax Christi Illinois joined with diverse faith communities from the Western Suburbs for an annual World Peace Day Interfaith Prayer Service. This year marks the 10th anniversary of this interfaith event that began as a project of local Pax Christi groups. The service will include participation from Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Baha’i and Christian faith communities. The event was attended by over 200 people.
The theme for the service was, “Sparking Courage in an Age of Fear” and the goal of this service was to awaken our capacity for empathy, compassion and trust in order to create peace in our community and around the world. Keynote speaker, Tom Cordaro, a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace, summed up the 10 years of interfaith work in this way:
“For ten years we have been gathering at the start of the year to rededicate ourselves to the work of interfaith collaboration and mutual support. For ten years we have kindled the flame of mutual respect in celebration of our wonderful religious diversity. For ten years we have given public witness to the idea that there is more that united us than divides us. And for ten years we have gathered to remind ourselves and to remind all those with ears to hear and eyes to see; that peace is possible and that true religion can be a force for peace with justice.”
Here is the complete speech, “We’ve Come This Far by Faith: 10 Years of World Peace Day Interfaith Prayer Service,” given by Tom Cordaro, Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace, at the event:
Today marks the 10th time this interfaith community has gathered on the first day of the new year to raise our voices for peace in our local community, in our nation and throughout the world.
For ten years we have been gathering at the start of the year to rededicate ourselves to the work of interfaith collaboration and mutual support. For ten years we have kindled the flame of mutual respect in celebration of our wonderful religious diversity. For ten years we have given public witness to the idea that there is more that united us than divides us. And for ten years we have gathered to remind ourselves and to remind all those with ears to hear and eyes to see; that peace is possible and that true religion can be a force for peace with justice.
In the 10 years since we began these annual services, our interfaith community has grown stronger and the bonds between us have become deeper. Through mutual prayer, dialogues, meals and celebrations we have become family.
Beginning in 2012, our interfaith community has hosted a number of dialogues on topics related to faith and spirituality. The next interfaith dialogue will take place February 13. If you are interested in being on the email contact list for these interfaith dialogues, sign up after the service in the lobby at the One Naperville Project table.
Another example of how our interfaith community has grown is the Women of Faith for Justice Group that brings together women from all faiths to share their struggles to build a more just world where all of God’s children can live in peace and grow to their fullest human potential. You can learn more about this group by visiting their information table in the lobby after this service.
In addition to the formation of these interfaith groups there have been numerous dinners and exchanges between various faith communities throughout DuPage County. And when necessary we have stood together to protect and defend each other; whether it be in response to physical attacks on our places of worship or in response to the reluctance of local governments to allow the building or expansion of our places of worship.
It is precisely because we are no longer strangers to each other that no demagogue – religious or political – can come into this community preaching hate or seeking to divide us against each other. If one of us is attacked, all of us are wounded. If one faith community is disenfranchised or discriminated against, all of our communities are dishonored.
The theme of this 10th anniversary service is “Sparking Courage in an Age of Fear.” Our Spark comes from the inner conviction planted in each of our hearts by the divine source of all love and mercy and nurtured by our diverse faith traditions. Our Courage comes from the bonds of fellowship, respect, solidarity and commitment that we have for each other and with each other. This courage enables us resist all those forces in our world that would set us against each other or set us against any who are in any way “different.”
The reflections that you will hear following my remarks speak to our theme and the work required to build a world of peace with justice. You will be treated to song, sacred texts, chants, recitations and reflections from many faith traditions that are seldom heard in our dominant culture.
I invite you to open your hearts to what you hear; let it flow over you and within you, even if you find it difficult to understand. Embrace, not only the words, but the spirit in which the words are given and take joy in the knowledge that God is being praised.