Religious leaders from across Silicon Valley joined together at the Eastside Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church last night to share prayers for peace and to remember those who have suffered from violence in the community and the world. “Whichever way we turn, O God,” began the opening prayer offered by Fr. Jon Pedigo, the host pastor, “there is your face, there is your face among us.”
The gathering was held to observe National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, and the face of those who had suffered loss was present as two members of the Guadalupe community shared their stories. One woman had lost her 23-year-old brother, who was shot on the street as he was protecting a group of children from stray gunfire; another’s 20-year-old grandson had likewise been shot, leaving behind an infant daughter.
There followed a series of prayers from different traditions, highlighting the commitment of each religious community to peacemaking and nonviolence. The prayers were printed in both English and Spanish to enable all to participate, and portions of the service were also bilingual. Rabbi Dana Magat of Temple Emanu-El in San Jose called for “mutual respect and acceptance” that might bring “shalom, salaam, peace for everyone.” Rev. D. Andrew Kille of the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council drew on a Celtic Christian prayer, a Jewish story, and a Hindu prayer, noting that “our neighbor’s pain is our pain, our neighbor’s grief is our grief, our neighbor’s loss is our loss.” Rev. Shelley Chandra Jyoti Swan of Carry the Vision and the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment offered a prayer from the Upanishads, and Rev. Ken Henry of Stone Presbyterian Church of Willow Glen shared a vision of a future “when people take care of each other.”
In between the prayers, a musical group led the congregation in singing a refrain, “Open my eyes, Lord.” Continuing the round of prayers were Girish Shah, bringing prayers from the Jain tradition, saying “there is no quality of soul more subtle than nonviolence and no virtue of spirit greater than reverence for life,” and Rev. Joy-Ellen Lipsky from the First Unitarian Church of San Jose, praying “May peace prevail on earth.”
Rev. Dave Grishaw-Jones of the Peace United Church of Christ in Santa Cruz noted that to stand against violence we “need music,” and led the congregation in singing a song from the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s, “I love everybody.” “I believe in mercy,” they sang,”I believe in mercy in my heart.” The final leader was Dr. Jyoti Lulla of Sanathan Dharma Kendra, who declared, “there is a golden thread that ties us all together; there is nobody left out, of that I am sure” and ended with the traditional Hindu prayer for peace, “Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.”
At the end of the evening, candles were lit at the front of the church and the congregation stood together to take the Campaign Nonviolence Pledge “to take a stand against violence and to help build a culture of active nonviolence.” The people were then invited to come down and take one of the candles home with them as a reminder of their commitment.
Sponsors of the interfaith event included the Diocese of San Jose, SiVIC (Silicon Valley Interreligious Council), the Peace project of the United Church of Christ, Temple Emanu-El, the Jain Center of Northern California, Stone Church of Willow Glen, Carry the Vision, Center for Spiritual Enlightenment, First Unitarian Church of San Jose, the Parliament of the World’s Religions Ambassadors, Campaign Nonviolence, and National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.