Khushnud Azariah, the first female ordained clergy member in Pakistan, speaks during an interfaith prayer vigil held in commemoration of the victims who died in a terrorist bombing in Pakistan on Easter.
DREW A. KELLEY , CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER
CHINO: Vigil at mosque condemns attack in Pakistan - Press Enterprise
More than 100 Muslims and Christians joined Monday, March 28, in a prayer vigil to condemn a terrorist attack that killed more than 70 people and injured more than 300 others in Pakistan on Easter.
The Chino mosque of a reformist Muslim community organized the interfaith vigil.
"We stand in solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters, especially in Pakistan," said Amjad Mahmood Khan, national public affairs director for Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. "We share deeply in their suffering."
Blasphemy laws in Pakistan restrict the religious activities of Christians and Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan, he said. Ahmadi Muslims are a sect of Islam with about 20,000 followers in the United States and 1,500 in Southern California, he said.
"These laws have led to the persecution, arrest and imprisonment of hundreds of religious minorities," Khan said at the vigil, held at the Baitul Hameed Mosque. "For us, the laws are the oxygen for terrorists in Pakistan. They're energizing the entire country. The government is unable or unwilling to control extremists like the Pakistani Taliban."
While the Easter bombing targeted Christians gathered at a park in Lahore, the attack also killed Muslims. Victims included many women and children, he said.
The official death toll from the attack in Lahore rose to at least 72, with 341 people reported wounded by officials.
In a televised address to the nation, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed to fight terrorism “until it is rooted out from our society.” And the country’s powerful military, credited with greatly reducing militant attacks over the past two years, said it was beginning a new round of operations in Punjab province.
Facing heavy criticism on Monday, officials acknowledged that while security measures had been intensified around mosques and, especially, churches on Sunday, little attention had been paid to the public parks.
The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack.
It was the latest in a string of terrorist attacks committed by the Pakistani Taliban against religious minorities in Pakistan. The group massacred 86 Ahmadi Muslims in twin attacks in 2010, Khan noted.
He read a statement denouncing the attack from Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the world leader of the Ahmadi Muslim Community.
"Never can such attacks be justified in any shape or form," the statement said, "and all forms of terrorism and extremism must be condemned in the strongest possible terms."
A Pakistani government official in the United States said leaders in his country have made strides in combating terrorism, though much work remains.
"We are taking every measure to control this menace," said Malik Qamar Abbas Khokhar, deputy consul general for Pakistan in Los Angeles.
The Rev. Khushnud Azariah is the vicar of St. George's Episcopal Church in Riverside. She spoke at the prayer vigil. "We need to respect one another and respect the dignity of all human beings," she said. "Nobody has the right to massacre and to slaughter and to limit others freedom in the name of God."
Kenn Rasmussen, a spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the Chino and Diamond Bar areas, offered a prayer for the victims. He said the Ahmadi Muslims he knows are peaceful and love God.
"We're so sorry that these terrorists have hijacked their beautiful message and turned it into a murderous hatred," he said.
Jeanette Ellis-Royston, president of the Pomona Valley branch of the NAACP, said people must talk about their differences and understand each other before healing can begin.
She pointed to other recent examples of terrorism, including the Dec. 2 mass shooting in San Bernardino that killed 14 people and wounded 22 others. "We really need to call it what it is: wickedness," she said.
The New York Times contributed to this report.
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Our grateful response to God’s gifts
On Sunday, October 11, 2015, we embarked on our annual stewardship drive. Each year we embark on this journey to thank God for his blessings and to give back a portion of our blessing for the extension of God's kingdom.
As Christians, we believe that everything we have belongs to God. And God has entrusted us with a responsibility to manage and use these resources and gifts for God’s glory and for the common good. Personally, I believe stewardship applies to everything we have been given. Our time, our money, our possessions, our influence, our God given gifts and abilities, it all comes from God, and must be used to work for God’s kingdom on this earth. Stewardship is our faithful response in giving back to God, a percentage of our talents, time, and money in gratitude and thanksgiving.
God likes a cheerful and a generous giver; so whatever percentage of our resources we agree to give, we must do so with grateful and generous hearts. Paul lists “generosity” as one unique spiritual gift possessed by some Christians (Rom. 12:8). Those who give generously are blessed by God. “Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.” (Deut. 15:10).
The pledge invitation calls our attention to support our Parish with our financial gifts. With our generous and willing support, we will participate in God’s restorative, and liberating work in our community and the world. Let us give back to God in gratitude, and support
St. George’s to be a loving, serving and witnessing community in Riverside.
INTERFAITH MEDITATION GARDEN REMARKS
"Thank YOU, Khushnud. What a beautiful project." (Rabbi Suzanne Singer)
"Good morning Mother Khushnud. We appreciate you and your church so much. Whatever we can do to contribute to the work of Christ through St. George, please let us know. It has been a great partnership and we appreciate you very much.”
“It was such a blessing to witness many faiths coming together yesterday to enjoy and celebrate the dedication of the meditation garden. God be with you always Reverend Khushnud. I know you have to wear many hats in your position, challenging at times I'm sure, but we can see how God is using you in a mighty way to affect change in the Riverside area and I'm sure worldwide too.”
“We pray and wish you much of God's grace and blessings." (Tala, Pastor of Xcell Church)
"All of the hard work planning paid off. I thought it went well also. Thank you for your vision."
(Dr. Virginia “Gincy” Haiston)
"Thank you for letting me be part of such a special project… you inspire me to be a better person." (Prakash “Lulli” Madhar)
"This is just a quick note to commend you for the lovely and meaningful service which we participated in yesterday. What a wonderful interfaith community you have nurtured in Riverside!
God’s blessings." (Joanna Sitorius)
"Dr. Azariah, It is with great joy that we accept your kind invitation to christen (bless) your garden. If ever there's to be peace in our world it will be because of garden and priests like yours promoting compassion, understanding and love for all God's children. We are honored and so blessed to have you in our lives! Love & Prayers." (Dinah Roberts)
"Thank you, for a wonderful afternoon - I loved seeing all the faith leaders together." (Katie Larson)
“Dear Mother Khushnud, though we are many, we are one in Christ… that is what I felt walking through the Interfaith Garden. When I got to the cross, I felt at one with God surrounded by many. I admire how your garden service brought all faiths together in the name of Christ. You are truly an instrument of God’s Peace. Thank you.” (Carrie Bradley)
St. George’s in the Press Enterprise!
Pe.com wrote an article about the Interfaith Meditation Garden (To read, click here and copied below)
Interfaith Meditation Garden dedicated
The interfaith community of Riverside gathered at St. George’s Episcopal Church on Sunday to dedicate the new Interfaith Meditation Garden.
J. Jon Bruno, bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles and president of the Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders, led the dedication service.
Members of the Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh faiths, along with Frank Arreola, representing Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey, joined the Rev. Khushnud Azaria, vicar of St. George’s Church, for the ceremony.
The garden is open to the public. The church is at 950 Spruce St., Riverside.
– Staff report
On behalf of the Bishop's Committee, I wish to express my thanks and appreciation to all who supported the Interfaith Meditation Garden through their prayers and work of labor.
Special thanks are offered to:
Diane David, Diane Askren, Kathy Martinez, Ina Doswell, Kim & Shelby Ericson, John-Paul and Shannon Wolf, Katy Larson & Sophia, Gincy and Tripp, Maile & Bailey, Lelah, Gerald Brown, Rita Chenoweth & her group of dancers, Rose, Prakash Madhar, Zeeshan & Sarah, Farah, Cal Dreamscape Landscape Co., Xcell Church, Easter Seals, Raj & Cynthia Daniel, Kristen, Bill Bowker, Jeano, all Sunday school children, choir members, and all donors whose complete list was included in the service bulletin.
Last but not the least, we are so grateful to our loving God for filling all the gaps and human errors with His Divine Love.
Working on the meditation garden was a long, tedious and fulfilling experience. In this whole process I felt God's mighty hand guiding and leading us all the way. If anyone felt neglected or hurt during this journey, I hope they will forgive one another. We are a family and if we continue to pursue our dreams in the spirit of unity and love, God will keep blessing us. May the peace of God abide with you all. Amen