Several religious communities from throughout Tucson’s northwest side recently congregated to spread and strengthen a message of love and unity during the Interfaith Celebration of Unity and Prayer. In its second year running, the event was hosted by Tucson North Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Joining the LDS community during the Thursday, March 8 gathering were the St. Odilia Catholic Community; Third Church of Christ, Scientist; Casa Adobes Congregational United Church of Christ; The Muslim Community Center of Tucson and Congregation Or Chadash.
This occasion was open to people of all faiths, and was a celebration at which leaders from each participating community delivered a speech that described the theme: “Together on the Journey in Mercy, Love and Peace.” The speeches and ending benediction focused on the power of coming together and loving fellow human beings. There were also videos presented, and songs that encapsulated the theme of love and unity among members of similar and different faiths.
Father Miguel Mariano from the St. Odilia Catholic Community conceptualized the Interfaith Prayer and Unity Celebration last year because he felt there was a need for strengthening the spirit of peace in the community. He collaborated with the leaders of the other religious communities and this event was born.
“People are hungry for peace, but we cannot speak about peace if we don’t have peace in our hearts,” Mariano said. “And so these kinds of events hopefully were able to advance the peace that we’re searching for in the community and mostly in our hearts.”
He said one thing he wants people to learn from the event (and the concept) is that they can coexist—regardless of faith denomination.
“We’re all human beings, and as such we’re all children of God,” he said.
Rabbi Thomas Louchheim from Congregation Or Chadash said that learning to live in harmony with people who believe differently is a valuable take away fromthe event.
“To be in this environment where we hopefully can inspire some different kind of thought of working, journeying together, is what’s most inspiring for me,” he said.
Louchheim said he also hopes that with that mindset, people will be moved to connect and work toward “making the community more whole” through endeavors such as helping out children under the poverty level in Pima County without having to wait for local elected officials.
“There are things that we can do together as communities of faith to make our community, first of all, a better place,” he said.
Loren Mayhew, a practitioner from the Third Church of Christ, Scientist, shared a need to act upon the love generated through the Interfaith Celebration.
“I think that it’s wonderful, I’d like to see us do more than just prayer services, I’d like to see the different congregations working together on some projects that benefit that community, we just haven’t figured out what that might be yet,” Mayhew said.
Selena Hopkins, a choir director from St. Odilia Catholic Community, said she hopes that people may one day see that although they may hold different beliefs, everyone can come together for a prayer service, and to unite under a common belief in God, “and work together for peace.”
Dee Dee Gradillas, one of the attendees of the event, said that she really liked that she was able to interact with people of different faiths while hearing a message of love and unity that she hoped to take with her as she exited the doors of the chapel.
“The theme of the evening is universal, and I think that we take out the whole idea of journeying together, it’s important that we just need to share that with other people,” Gradillas said.
Melissa Vasquez is a University of Arizona journalism student and Tucson Local Media intern.