Monday, Jan. 18th, 2020, is Martin Luther King (hereafter MLK) Remembrance holiday. An interfaith prayer service was held in honoring MLK’s life and work, which impacted and benefitted the African American community and all other minority communities. His message of justice and peace resonated with all. Temple Aliyah, a neighboring Jewish synagogue, organized an interfaith prayer service, “Voices of Unity,” dedicated to honoring the vision of Dr. MLK.
Los Angeles Ezzi Masjid was honored to be invited to participate in this event by Rabbi Hazzan Mike Stein. At the prayer service were also representatives from Shomrei Torah Synagogue, Word of Encouragement Church, Greater Zion Church Family, Islamic Society of West Valley, and Abayudaya Jewish Congregation of Africa.
This interfaith prayer service was a live zoom event filled with prayers, speeches, lively music, and even a bar and bat mitzvah. The evening theme was the concept of sanctuary. A building or even a spectacular place in nature is usually associated with the word sanctuary. It is a physical space where one finds peace but in the time of a Coronavirus lockdown, mass prayer congregations ae disallowed, so how does one find that sanctuary? Participants shared finding sanctuary during a lockdown in the absence of places of worship.
Masjid Ezzi representative was 21-year-old Husain Khambati. He is an alumnus of Al- Jamea tus Saifiyah in Nairobi and is currently a college student studying medicine. He talked of how, during a lockdown, he found spirituality.
He began his speech with a Hadith from Prophet Mohammed SAW, “the whole world is your place of worship… All land was made for me to worship. Wherever I go, I can practice my faith. Even when all places are closed, worship continues’. It does not matter where you are. As a Muslim, when it is time for prayer, any place can be a place of worship because faith is in you! Within us is our faith, our sense of what is holy. Our bodies and actions are vessels of the sanctuary we seek; therefore, by prostrating in prayer, we affirm our commitment to our faith.
Husain spoke of a snowboarding trip to San Francisco where he was on top of a mountain and marveling at all the beauty before him, and he realized it was time for evening prayer. Even though he was with friends, he took a moment to lay down his prayer mat and tell his prayers.
Then he spoke of how even though we are distinct minority groups, our faith brings us together. It unites us!
An interfaith prayer session demonstrates the love we all hold sacred. We are all people of faith, and in getting to know another minority group, we are now a collective religious community. A community that no longer views another as “the other” but understands that we share and take responsibility for each other when threatened with covert or overt racism when faced by one community then becomes an attack on all of us. It to love your neighbor as yourself.
The event ended with a reaffirmation of how similar we are in our practices. From Shalom to Salaam, as Masjid Ezzi representative, Husain reiterated the message of let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me, for within me lives peace. For I am the sanctuary, I seek.