This Sunday the Interfaith Group at Asbury Methodist Church organized a “Rally for Love” to celebrate diversity in the community. Participants were encouraged to wear red to show their love for people of other faiths and backgrounds. The event drew about three hundred people and twenty-five local organizations.
Speakers and performances included mayor John Marchand, who said he hoped the event would be “transformational and aspirational” and spark some relationships among people who might not otherwise come up to each other. Catharine Baker of the California State Assembly gave a speech about the Lincoln memorial’s hands; one closed and one open, symbolizing how we need to stand up for our own beliefs while also being able to “reach across the table” (Baker is a Republican in a deep blue state). A student from Interfaith for Youth read a funny and inspirational original poem that also featured the theme of connecting across our differences:
“For we are different—it’s true
Separated by race, religion, and ideas of that sort
But it’s what makes me, me and you, you
And we must listen without a snort”
Wajiha Syed (whole poem here)
Feraidoon Mojadedi, an Islamic scholar, told a story from Rumi about a man named Majnun who loved a stray dog. He would kiss it and put flowers around its neck and treat it so well that everyone watching was confused. “Why do you show such kindness to a mere stray dog?” And Majnun would say, “Because this is the dog that guards the street where my beloved lives.” The point being, not to look at the form, but look at the meaning of people. Mojadedi said, “Break your own form, and then you will see meaning in G-d’s creation.” There is so much more to people than what we see on the outside.
Ruth Gasten, a Holocaust survivor, spoke about her experiences as a young Jewish girl in Nazi Germany. When she was younger, her Christian neighbors would open their doors to her and let her hang out with them, but after Hitler gave the order not to be friendly with Jews, all the doors were closed. But at night her friend Anna would come with a sled and say, “Since Hitler will not let me sled in the daytime, we’ll sled in the moonlight.”
Other performances included a high school jazz band, American Indian dance, and Music for Change. There were also various volunteer organizations like Interfaith Interconnect, which brings together people of different faiths, and Partners for Change, a local anti-poverty organization.
We were so lucky to have the sun shining and listen to all the great speakers! Like Mayor Marchand said, the success of an event like this depends on what we do going forward and how we continue to engage with our community and our government to protect vulnerable populations.
So stay upbeat, keep talking, and enjoy your Valentine’s Day this week!