Pleasanton: Interfaith communities commemorate lives lost to COVID-19 | New

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As the pandemic draws to a close, East Bay’s interfaith communities gathered in Pleasanton this weekend to remember and mourn those who have lost their lives to COVID-19 while looking on with a positive eye. to the future.

The coronavirus pandemic has greatly affected group worship and community events as social distancing and safety measures have been implemented. After months of isolation and separation, interfaith communities organized “Into the Light”, which featured a selection of speakers from different backgrounds, beliefs and professions for a long-awaited reflection on the past year.

“It’s like we’ve been waiting a long time to be able to celebrate this bittersweet day. Bitter, because we mourn the nearly 4 million lives lost to COVID-19 in the past few months. And sweet, because the fact that we were able to meet today is a sign that hope is on the horizon, there is light at the end of the tunnel, ”Hina Khan-Mukhtar said in a statement opening welcoming participants in the early evening Sunday.

The event was organized by three local interfaith communities – Eden Area Interfaith Council, Tri-Valley Interfaith Interconnect and Tri City Interfaith Council – and took place in the parking lot of the Muslim Community Center-East Bay (MCC East Bay) in Pleasanton .

During the event, speakers shared personal experiences, prayers, poems and songs to commemorate those lost to COVID-19 and in anticipation of better times to come.

Bishop Robert Lopez of the Mar Thoma Orthodox Church and Munir Safi of MCC East Bay shared their personal stories of losing a brother and father to the pandemic. Lopez has linked the loss of his brother to lingering issues of systemic racism.

“The pandemic is not over, people are still dying, people are still contracting the virus, here in the United States and abroad,” Lopez said. “And we see the same systematic problems in other countries around economics, religious beliefs, gender … and unless we are willing to fight our own prejudices that we cling to, the next pandemic is not. is not approached in a way that we show compassion and love and truth, we will find ourselves in the same situation we find ourselves in today.

Jamie Ireland and Elsa Grabowski of Tri-Valley Cultural Jews shared poems in remembrance of the lives lost over the past year. Ireland recited the poem “A Litany of Remembrance” by Rabbis Sylvan Kamens and Jack Riemer. Grabowski shared his own poem, “A Year Like No Other,” noting the differences and changes he has encountered over the past year.

Trish Munro of Livermore City Council reflected on the losses caused by the pandemic but also the challenges beyond the pandemic, referring to the Black Lives Matter movement, the fires, the U.S. Capitol insurgency and climate change. As a member of city council, Munro said she saw first-hand the work of public service workers and expressed her gratitude to them as they battle the pandemic and ongoing challenges.

Ruth Gasten of Tri-Valley Interfaith Interconnect shared the story of her post-pandemic experience. The pandemic had disrupted live rituals, but with the reopening, Gasten saw his interfaith group’s mission statement come to life at a wedding when a group of groomsmen from different cultures danced and s’ has a lot of fun.

“This is what our mission statement describes as one of the Tri-Valley goals: people from different backgrounds enjoying each other’s company and celebrating together is wonderful to see,” said Gasten.

Halfway through, U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell (D-Livermore) made a surprise appearance, praising healthcare workers and members of the interfaith community who have helped the unemployed, collected PPE, and kept the faith during the times. difficult.

“As a representative of this congressional district, my commitment to you is to be invigorated to serve as well. To serve you, to serve the cause of America which is to be a just, equitable, humane country, which presents itself not only to ourselves but to the rest of the world as a place that believes in freedom: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press… freedom to live, ”Swalwell said.

“Today is the day we mourn those we have lost, but also the best thing I think we can do for so many of those we have lost is to celebrate what we have right now and reaffirm our commitment to make this country a country that achieves its most basic and fundamental ideals, ”he added.

Arelis Sandoval is a registered nurse and public health nurse who was involved in Alameda County’s response to the pandemic. She was involved in Operation Comfort which provided hotels to those battling homelessness and COVID-19 and received assistance from the Eden Area Interfaith Council which donated handmade masks and scrub caps to the public nurses in these hotels.

“The supplies seemed like a blessing and I felt the overwhelming power of the community coming together to protect their healthcare workers,” Sandoval said.

Tri-City Interfaith Council President Joy Barnitz spoke about the unity the pandemic has strengthened.

“For all viruses, humans are just a place to grow, a place to reproduce. They don’t see any of the differences that we see. We are all the same regardless of skin color, income, faith, tradition, none of that matters to the virus, ”Barnitz said.

The Tri-City Interfaith Council hosted a three-part memorial service on grief and loss, community and hope. Barnitz shared the closing prayer of the service at the event which enabled them to find resilience and community.

Other speakers from Beth Sholom Temple in San Leandro, Our Lady Grace Catholic Church, Christ Eden United Church and Hayward Sikh Gurdwara Choir also shared prayers, stories and songs.

Overall, Into the Light has enabled interfaith communities to recognize not only the physical but also mental hardships that many have felt as the pandemic posed many unforeseen challenges.

“I take this as part of my healing journey because it was really hard for me to put my words into it and even prepare for it today, because as healthcare workers we tend to put the hardships aside because we want to keep moving forward and keep helping people, ”Sandoval told The Weekly,“ But I think sometimes we have to allow ourselves to talk about it and talk about what we lived and how we felt because it’s part of the healing journey, and it really felt enlightening today to be able to do that.

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