Nearly 200 people from various faith traditions throughout the Orlando area gathered together to pray for peace in our world. The Diocese of Orlando hosted the event, “God of Life: Lead Us to Justice and Peace,” at St. Margaret Mary Parish Jan. 17. The victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December and the Sikh religious community shooting in August were remembered at the beginning of the service.
The prayer service included a presentation of symbols of peace – water to cleanse our hearts, bread for sharing, salt for those mourning loved ones and a candle for hope for the children around the world. Representatives from Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Sikh religious traditions, prayed in their own manner using the Qur’an, the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Guru Granth Sahib.
“We come together as people of faith, varied faith traditions whose teachings at their core promote peace, justice, goodwill to all people for we are connected to one another as created in the image and likeness of a loving, peaceful God,” Bishop John Noonan said.
“What we believe and how we live our faith, whatever our traditions, can and is what makes a great difference in the struggle against violence and guides us toward a true peace and justice. Communities of faith do make a positive difference in our world because they shine a light, a light that brings that truly marks the injustice of conflict while offering hope and healing in the midst of despair.”
Gilda Brink, the religion teacher at St. Mary Magdalen Catholic School in Altamonte Springs, was among the faithful participating in the event. She said she was moved by the sense of community among the people and she planned on taking the lessons she learned from other religious leaders back to the classroom to her middle school students. However, more importantly, she said the sense of peace was evident among all.
“I felt peace,” Brink said. “I felt an enormous sense of engagement among people of different faiths sitting near me. When we sang the song of peace at the end, I was next to people I did not know, and they held my hands. That is peace.”
As the service drew to an end, Bishop Noonan reminded the congregation that God is God of Light who seeks out the good and longs for our wholeness and happiness.
“Our faith traditions should be a challenge to each of us to examine how we may contribute to the ethics that cherishes life, puts people before things, promotes the dignity of each person and upholds justice for all, and values kindness and compassion over anger and vengeance,” he said. “As we leave this time of prayer together, may we remember that peace is a gift that must be grasped,” he continued. “It is an intentional act to change our hearts and must lead to action to change our communities, our families and our world.”