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Elk Grove Citizen

Prayer Vigil Urges Peace in Elk Grove, Middle East

Mar 28, 2024 09:38AM ● By Matthew Malone

Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen (center) speaks at the Interfaith Council of Elk Grove’s prayer vigil for peace. She is accompanied by Rabbi Chaim Groner, left, and Imam Mohammed Abdul-Azeez. Photos by Matthew Malone

Prayer Vigil For Peace [5 Images] Click Any Image To Expand
ELK GROVE, CA (MPG) - In hopes of an end to conflict, the Interfaith Council of Elk Grove on March 18 held a prayer vigil for peace.
Attended by representatives of multiple faiths, the event outside Elk Grove City Hall was the council’s second. The first was held in November 2023 in response to the Hamas attacks in Israel on Oct. 7 and the ensuing Israeli invasion of Gaza.
Council President Mark Jansson said the continuing war and other conflicts around the world prompted the decision to hold another vigil.
Jansson noted Elk Grove’s high degree of cultural and religious diversity, saying the council believes that there is a better chance of surviving global strife “if we stand for peace, if we make a claim for good will toward men.”
Jansson cited humorist Will Rogers’ quote, “I never met a man I didn’t like,” proposing a variation: “I never met a man or woman that I didn’t try to understand.”
Imam Mohammed Abdul-Azeez said one of his roles as a religious leader is to bring consolation to community members who are looking at adversity.
“The challenge that I’m facing in the last few months is, ‘What do I do if someone came to me and that person has severe melancholy? What do I say to them when I have the same melancholy in my heart?’” said Azeez, a co-founder of Tarbiya Institute, which has locations in Elk Grove, Natomas and Roseville.
“If someone came to me needing consolation, what do I say to them when I need the most amount of consolation? What do I do when someone comes to me seeking meaning, wisdom — what does God intend behind all this — and I myself don’t know the answer to that?” he said.
Azeez said he knows many people who have lost relatives in the conflict, saying 85 family members of a dear friend have been killed.
Difficult times test people’s mettle, said Azeez, adding that there is a constant flow of bad news.
“Yet we still have to find a way out of this, as humanity, as people of faith.,” Azeez said. “We still have to find a way to believe in God’s providence. We still have to find a way to still aspire for a just resolution, to believe in the depth and profundity of hope, in the goodness of human beings.”
Azeez said it is important to “not allow ourselves to be swept away and overtaken by evil and overtaken by violence and overtaken by blood.” He encouraged the vigil audience to trust God and that he hopes the U.S. government will be “a true arbiter of peace.”
Rabbi Chaim Groner of Chabad of Elk Grove spoke about the importance of finding common ground.
“I believe that there are times in life that God tests us,” Groner said. “We can only guess what the test is but it’s logical that the test in today’s day and age is to find commonalities.
“There are many different opinions, and … there’s a lot of passion out there from both sides. And the test, I believe nowadays, is to find good in each other and I’m echoing what was said but it’s to find the joy and the hope that is there. It does exist. And when we focus on what connects instead of what divides us, and when we focus on what brings us together rather than what tears us apart, this is the beginning to the end of all conflicts.”
Groner concluded by reciting Hashkiveinu, a Hebrew prayer.
“Father, let us lie in peace. Our king, raise us up to a good life in peace. Spread over us the shelter of your peace,” the prayer began.
Other speakers included Bhavin Parikh of the Elk Grove Diversity and Inclusion Commission, Roman Catholic Deacon Paul Friedrich, Bess Brewer of the Center for Spiritual Awareness, the Rev. Amanda Sheldon-Park of Field of Hope United Church of Christ and Julius Garga of the Baha’i Community of Elk Grove.
Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen invited Azeez and Groner to stand beside her as she spoke. She mourned the approximately 1,200 people killed in the Hamas attack and the nearly 32,000 people killed in Gaza, saying that “they deserved to live in peace.”
“There is so much anger out there and it’s hard not to be angry … I’m angry too. I share that anger. But for us to have true peace, it starts right here. … It is right here with my brothers to my right and my left, who need our love now more than ever.”
Singh-Allen encouraged listeners to think about how they could make their communities better.
“We have to be able to talk to each other and share and learn from our collective suffering. This is not an either-or. Pain and suffering is humanity, everybody. It’s all of us,” Singh-Allen said.
Pointing to the Sikh concept of chardi kala, “eternal optimism,” the mayor said, “We know there are so many dark days but with every sunset, there is a sunrise, a beautiful day of hope, and that’s that light, that hope, that sunshine we have to carry.”