Five different faith traditions — Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh — all came together on World Refugee Day with a common mission: to pray for refugees and asylum seekers seeking safety.
Viator House of Hospitality combined with members of the Peace & Justice Committee of St. James Church to host the interfaith prayer service. Fr. Corey Brost, CSV, co-hosted the evening in his role as executive director of Viator House.
“We have five faith communities who have come together in this holy space to welcome these great gifts to our nation, the refugees and asylum seekers,” Fr. Brost said. “We call on the God of all our traditions, who has welcomed migrants of all nations.”
The evening included leaders from each faith, who reflected on refugees and their role in history, as well as reading from the words of their founders in sacred text passages, and all interspersed with songs and prayers.
“in Judaism, our core is our stories of wandering, stories of refugees,” said Rabbi Ilana Baden of Temple Chai in suburban Long Grove.
Vishal Chhabria represented the Hindu Community. He read inspiring concepts from the Bhagavad Gita, saying “These words call for action through devotional service.”
Midway through the evening, the audience heard a firsthand account from Maria and Fares Saffaf, who had fled their native Syria. The siblings and their family escaped to the United Arab Emirates for three years, before arriving in the United States in 2016.
Not knowing one word of English, they soon acclimated to their new home, thanks to caring individuals and teachers as well as their involvement with the Children of Abraham Coalition and its Peace Camp. Six years later, Fares is an American citizen and he will start his senior year of high school. Maria is in the process of becoming a citizen, while she attends Northeastern University in Chicago. She will graduate next year with a degree in health services and ultimately hopes to become a physician’s assistant.
“I’m so grateful for all the opportunities we have received here,” Maria said, “and proud to call this country home.”