By JOANNA CLAY / STAFF WRITER
IRVINE – Clergy and community members of faiths across the board – from Latter Day Saints to Judaism, to Islam and Zoroastrianism – joined hands in a prayer vigil Wednesday afternoon in response to the Easter bombing in Pakistan.
The vigil – held in Orange County’s largest African American Church, Christ Our Redeemer AME – united the county’s Interfaith community, who condemned the event on one of Christianity’s holiest days.
Mixed with prayer and song, the crowd denounced the bombing that killed 70 people in a children’s park in Lahore.
“Easter is about hope as well as the deliverance from sin. It’s a sin that took place in Pakistan,” the Rev. Mark Whitlock of Christ Our Redeemer AME said. “And we, as men and women of faith who believe in hope, must come together to condemn terrorism and violence.”
Whitlock and Farrah Khan of the Newport-Mesa Interfaith Council organized the prayer vigil to spread a message of unity in the face of violence. More than 100 gathered in an upper room to hear about a dozen faith leaders speak.
Khan, who is Pakistani, said she remembered her happiness when Pakistan recently announced it would recognize the holy days of minority religions, such as the Christian holiday of Easter and Hindu’s festival of Holi. She also expressed her despair when she heard the news of the attack.
The bombing happened near rides at a park filled with families and children. A faction of the Taliban took credit for the suicide attack. Although the bombing targeted Christians, the majority of those affected were Muslim.
“It’s heartbreaking … no matter how much violence, how much hatred we see in the world – let’s make a pledge we will not be contributors to that,” said Haroon Manjlai, public affairs coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Qamar Abbas Khokhar, deputy consul general of Pakistan’s Los Angeles consulate, said the message of unity is important.
“These are individuals that have nothing to do with the religion of Islam,” he said. “They are inhuman, extremists. … All of us need to be united to fight them.”
Rabbi Frank Stern of Orange County Interfaith Network talked about the victims of recent attacks, such as in a restaurant in Paris or at the playground in Lahore. He said the public can’t let terrorists keep them from pushing onward.
“We can’t let the bullies of the world keep us from living ordinary lives,” he said.
Whitlock says the event could have happened anywhere. He mentioned that, following a KKK rally in Anaheim last month that resulted in a violent conflict with protesters, he has received threats.
“That which took place in Pakistan could have easily taken place here in Orange County,” he said. “Martin Luther King Jr. says if there’s injustice anywhere, it’s a threat to justice everywhere. So the faith community comes and we deal with social justice in the face of social pain.”
On April 29, his church plans to hold a conference about keeping houses of worship safe. Author Cornel West, Supervisor Todd Spitzer and Sheriff Sandra Hutchens are scheduled to attend.
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Source: Orange County Register