Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Be the Change...

Dr. Stern, L, and leaders of Orange County Interfaith Network

This past Friday, August 26,  I attended the Orange County Interfaith Network's Kick-Off Breakfast to learn what is being done right here in my own neighborhood to support victims of violence. This overarching organization, OCIN, coordinates and supports all of the 11 interfaith efforts in Orange County. It defines the work of interfaith as:
  • From dialogue to understanding and respect;
  • From understanding and respect to wisdom and compassion;
  • From wisdom and compassion to civility.
 More about the history of the organization can be found here:
In his opening address, OCIN Founder and President, Rabbi Dr. Frank Stern recounted several horrific acts that lead to the choice of support for victims of violence as the focus for the upcoming year's activities: attacks on a Coptic church in Egypt and on innocent civilians in Paris and Syria; random stabbings of Jews in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv...and in the United States, the 2012 massacre at the gurdwara Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin; the June 2015 murder of nine worshipers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopalian church in Charleston, South Carolina; and, locally, the 2015 Christmas party atrocity in San Bernardino. These violent acts impact all races and religions, Dr. Stern emphasized.

"Consequently," he concluded, "this year we mourn...we pray...we remember...we organize."

Heather Powers
Maria Khani
Subsequent speakers and performers reiterated this theme. At the close of the intense morning, I reflected on what had most impressed me. The heartfelt prayer ceremony lead by Rev. Adelia Sandoval of the Acjachemen Tribe, the inspired singing of "Grateful Girl" Heather Powers,the Blessing of the Bread by Cantor David Reinwald, and the hauntingly beautiful moment of reflection lead by Maria Khani. Equally illuminating were the brief messages delivered by three young women from the Interfaith Youth Council, representing the Sikh, Zoroastrian and Jain faiths.

Keynote speaker Reverand Dr. Gail Stearns, of Chapman University, delivered an address, "Developing an Interfaith Identity Today." She discussed how millennials are more interested in the betterment of lives than preserving an interest in established institutions. Youth, she suggested, don't necessarily adhere to one conviction. They can claim their rituals, their morals, their ethics, yet demonstrate openness and commitment through awareness and respect for differences. In the era of multiculturalism everybody no longer shares the same identity, but rather admit to hybrid identities.
Gail J. Stearns is The Irvin C. and Edy Chapman Dean of the Wallace All Faiths Chapel and Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Chapman University

Though this was the first event sponsored by OCIN that I'd attended,  I've slotted several more on my calendar, beginning with a series of programs taking place on Sunday, September 11, Patriot Day. 

Truth, Love, Compassion, Beauty, Hope: Change
Additionally, I'm drafting a piece on what we all can do locally, nationally and internationally for an upcoming issue of Uncle Jam. It always comes to can we foster peace and understanding among peoples of different ethnicities and belief systems?

As I found in my many years with Peace Corps,both overseas and in Washington, DC, first, we get to know them. It's one thing to claim empathy in the's another to put a name and a face on a potential victim. I'm blessed to live in Orange County, rich in diversity. I'm thrilled to have discovered this organization that sets realistic goals and objectives to carry out its mission, "People of Faith Working for a Better Orange County."

As a result of attending this breakfast I can claim that I now know Laura, from Hawaii, a Latter Day Saint who displays her peace quilt to schoolchildren worldwide. I now know Maria, who was schooled in Damascus, and who, according the Los Angeles Times, even before the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, was active in her community, encouraging fellow Muslims to follow suit. "The best way to counter anti-Muslim stereotypes," she says, "is get out and be a part of American society." I now know Reverend Susan, of the Sacred Seasons Center, and I know Heather, a singer with a touching story, a "Grateful Girl." Consequently, now that I know some of the key players, I'll be looking forward to learning more about the valuable work this group continues to do.

Laura Ava-Testimale 

How many people of different faiths do you know? It might depend on where you live. It could also depend on your level of education. Here's some survey results that might surprise you:

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful endeavor. i LOVE THIS: FIRST, put a name with a face. So true, when it becomes personal people are more eager to assist. Your article will be wonderful!