Bahai News - USC students search for faith, hope
USC students search for faith, hope
By Lori Stuenkel
(U-WIRE) LOS ANGELES -- University of Southern California students,
along with people all over the country, are turning to prayer to find
something to sustain and comfort them in the wake of last Tuesday's
Those who conducted and attended various church services during the
weekend sought to remember the victims of the attacks while exploring
peaceful ways for the United States to recover and react.
"We cannot come to prayer without recalling the events of last week,"
said Father William Messenger, director of the USC Catholic Center. He
said that scripture points only to healing that it can provide strength,
and not just comfort, for people seeking to recover. He also noticed
that people's dependence on the church has increased since Tuesday's
"It happens in times of crisis; we turn to a higher power," he said.
Messenger's homily also included a theme from the prayer service
attended by President Bush on Friday: "We should not become the evil we
He acknowledged that people feel outraged at the situation, and
attempted to answer the question of how to respond.
"I know my anger pales in comparison to people whose friends and
relatives are dead," he said. "People jump to use language of hatred,
retaliation, revenge. This should not be our response and people are
asking, 'Then what (should be)? How do we respond?'"
The church teaches forgiveness, and that is what people want to
practice, he said.
"I don't know that I am ready to forgive what happened, I'm just not
ready," he said, "But I'm also not ready to respond with more bombs."
People looking to forgive can do so, if the look to the church for
guidance, Messenger said.
People of many faiths were echoing that sentiment as they assembled
to honor the victims and lives consumed by the terrorist attacks. At
USC's emotional Coming Together service held in Bovard Auditorium on
Friday, Rabbi Susan Laemmle asked those in attendance to remember, first
and foremost, the victims of the attacks.
"We come together in remembrance and prayer," she said, "Prayer for
those who have died, family and friends, our beloved country, the world
and universe and God's own self (because) He grieves when the world wars
The service was held on the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance
declared by President George W. Bush.
Students, staff and faculty filled the auditorium and sat in reserved
silence as a dozen campus religious groups offered prayers, music and
words of comfort.
That silence was interrupted only by the sound of crying, and the
spontaneous applause following the a speech by Michael Jackson, vice
president of Student Affairs.
"We want peace and yet are outraged and want to strike back," he
said. "I know I'm scared. I'm profoundly sad for those who have been
killed, for those about to be killed."
"Students, this is your world: help us find the peace."
Groups at the service repeated prayers for victims and families,
rescuers, the United States, the world and the attackers themselves. USC
Baha'i Club offered a Prayer for America, asking the country to
concentrate on love and unity.
"Do not think the peace of this world is impossible to obtain," said
Shabnam Mogharbari, a senior majoring in print journalism. "Nothing is
Other prayers, music and messages came from Muslim Students of USC,
Intervarsity Trojan Christian Fellowship, Hillel Jewish Center, Students
of Ancient Religions, USC Catholic Center, Canterbury USC, USC Buddhist
Association, and United University Church.
The service ended with the singing of "America the Beautiful," after
which the audience improvised with "God Bless America."
"(The service) was really uplifting, there was a sense of unity,"
said Alfonso Ruiz, a freshman majoring in business. "Especially the
ending when everyone got together and sang."
Around the same time as the USC service, prayers were being held at
the Umar ibn Al Khatab Mosque at Vermont Ave. and Exposition Blvd.
Though it was a regular weekly service, security around the mosque was
increased; two private guards and an LAPD officer were standing by for
The attacks and its effects on Muslims were addressed during the
service, said Mustafa Elfarra, a senior majoring in business and a
member of the Muslim Student Association. Elfarra said he preferred to
deal with the aftermath of the tragedy within his religious community.
"Islam has its own way of dealing with it," he said, "But it is good
that faiths get together, although we don't necessarily have to."
On Friday evening, Hillel held a weekly Shabbat service. Though the
service was not specifically a memorial for the attacks, the subject was
addressed because it was clearly on people's minds.
"Shabbat is joyful," said Rabbi Jonathan Klein. "Though it is hard to
reconcile that with the tragedies, we will move from mourning to joy."
Because there were no students at one service who had members of their
immediate family die in the attack, the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer of
mourning, was not recited. But, the ceremonial lighting of candles took
on a deeper meaning when the victims and their families were remembered.
Students there sought a sense of community to help them deal with the
"This is as good a time as ever to come to reflect on everything,"
said Sara Mack, a freshman majoring in theater. "(I came for) the
community of everybody getting together."
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Page last updated/revised 091901
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