Bahai News - Valley joins in prayer, remembrance September 15, 2001


Valley joins in prayer, remembrance

By Joanna Corman / and and Matthew Chin /

They wore red, white and blue. Some held small American flags. Stars and stripes adorned their shirts. Three days after hijackers crashed jetliners into New York landmarks, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field, hundreds of Inland Valley residents mourned the losses in a national day of prayer and remembrance called by President Bush.

In religious and secular services, people sang through tears and offered prayers to the victims, their families, rescue workers and political leaders. There were calls for a spiritual revival, for justice and not revenge.

At the Claremont Colleges, an interfaith service filled the 690-seat Garrison Theater nearly to capacity. Many in the audience who had fought back tears through much of noontime service broke down during a moving chorus of the hymn "Let There Be Peace on Earth" that ended the service.

"I find it encouraging that there was such a strong coming together," said sophomore Janel Wright, her eyes still red.

Afternoon classes were canceled at the schools.

Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center hosted a noontime prayer service for hospital staff and community members in the same courtyard where blood donors have been showing up all week.

"My hope is that we'll go away with strength, with comfort, with a sense of unity among us," hospital chaplain Judith Roska said.

Many in the hospital gathering were visibly tearful while listening to Roska and several other area spiritual leaders.

More than 500 people gathered at Calvary Chapel of the Chino Valley at noon. Pastor David Rosales talked about an unraveling of spiritual values in this country, saying that Americans have turned their backs to God. He said Tuesday's events may be a wake-up call to renew or initiate faith in God.

"In times of prosperity, we have our greatest challenges," he said. "It's the tragedies that draw us back together. Perhaps we as a nation have forgotten our God."

The answer, he said, is through Jesus Christ.

"We are under spiritual attack as well as physical attack," Rosales said.

He warned against retaliation. In an area as diverse as Southern California, he urged sensitivity to religious and racial differences.

"You might be driving by a person who appears to be a member of another race or religion," he said. "You may want to lash out at them. Please don't do that."

Several people who attended said the service was helping them heal.

"When this happened," church member Steve Lewis said, "I was at work. All I wanted to do was pray, come to a church and pray. I wanted to pray for everyone affected by this."

The Bahai community of Claremont offered an interfaith prayer service Friday evening at the home of Dr. Arsalan and Keyvan Geula.

Keyvan Geula said she hopes the diverse gathering would give people strength and "that they would see the picture of harmony and the picture of love and they would draw the picture of understanding."

At the First Mennonite Church of Upland, Pastor Jeff Wright asked those in attendance to reject violence. He talked about the importance of trusting God when "it does not make sense to have faith in the midst of what we see on TV."

We must uphold the sanctity of all human life and cherish each other, he said, "so that violence becomes a distant memory. Is that a naive wish? I don't know, but I'd like to find out."

More than 60 people attended the evening service hosted by the First Mennonite Church and Iglesia Fuente de Zida, which shares space in the Campus Avenue building.

Wright offered several suggestions for dealing with the aftermath of Tuesday's attacks. His congregation could donate Sunday's offerings to a Mennonite church in lower Manhattan that has been feeding rescue workers. The congregation also could invite Inland Valley Muslims to a service, he said.

Simi Wakawa of Upland said he came in part to remember those who died on Tuesday.

"We're required by God to pray when we have incidents like that that affect others," Wakawa said. "We're supposed to remember them in our prayers."

Diamond Bar High students joined in impromptu efforts at schools around the country, arriving on campus Friday to find an overwhelming number of fellow students dressed in red, white and blue.

In keeping with a suggestion made over the public-address system during Thursday's morning announcements, students and staff showed up en masse in patriotic colors. Office staff and teachers joined in.

"We saw the worst part of human nature, and this gives you hope that people are good," freshman Jeff Song said.

©Copyright 2001, Los Angeles Times

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