Crowd Gath­ers At Church For In­ter­faith Unity Vigil

Riverbank News - - FRONT PAGE - BY VIR­GINIA STILL vstill@oak­dale­

St. Frances of Rome Catholic Church in River­bank was the host site for a Unity gath­er­ing to pro­mote un­der­stand­ing be­tween all mem­bers of the com­mu­nity re­gard­less of race, color, or re­li­gion. The event was Wed­nes­day evening and was co­or­di­nated by Unify Stanis­laUS. The gath­er­ing ma­te­ri­al­ized as a re­sponse to the events that un­folded in Char­lottesville.

“I just want to say that the hor­ror of Hur­ri­cane Har­vey brought peo­ple to­gether,” stated Fa­ther Misael Avila. “There were count­less acts of kind­ness. It didn’t mat­ter if the per­son was black or Jewish or if the per­son had doc­u­ments or not. The only thing that mat­tered was that there was an­other hu­man be­ing who needed help. When we see each other just as hu­man be­ings miracles can hap­pen.”

The mem­bers of Unify Stanis­laUS in­clude Faith in Stanis­laus, Faith Tem­ple Bap­tist Church of Modesto, Hindu Tem­ple of Modesto, In­sight Med­i­ta­tion Cen­tral Val­ley, Is­lamic Cen­ter of Modesto, Modesto Sev­enth Day Ad­ven­tist, SAACR- Stanis­laus Asian Amer­i­can Com­mu­nity Re­source, St. Paul Epis­co­pal Church, Modesto, Stanis­laus Hu­man­ists, Uni­tar­ian Univer­sal­ist Fel­low­ship of Stanis­laus County, and Viet­namese Bud­dhist (Phước-Sơn Bud­dhist Cen­ter).

Fa­cil­i­ta­tor and co-co­or­di­na­tor of Unify Stanis­laUS, Na’ama Fire­stone, a vol­un­teer for Bend the

Arc - A Jewish Part­ner­ship for Jus­tice, helped or­ga­nize the Unity vigil af­ter sev­eral re­quests for unity and sup­port.

“The unity gath­er­ing, ‘Love Thy Neigh­bor,’ was con­ceived in re­sponse to the neo-Nazi/white su­prem­a­cist march in Char­lottesville and its deadly af­ter­math,” stated Fire­stone. “I am a Jewish grand­daugh­ter of Holo­caust sur­vivors and I was seek­ing to cre­ate a place for unity and sup­port. The march in Char­lottesville was a de­spi­ca­ble dis­play of an­ti­Semitism and racism.”

Unify Stanis­laUS is an in­ter­faith al­liance that rec­og­nized that there was a strong need for unity, for ed­u­ca­tion and ex­po­sure to other cul­tures and faiths and to sup­port peo­ple that are liv­ing in fear, added Fire­stone.

“Hav­ing white skin priv­i­lege pro­tects me from ex­pe­ri­enc­ing daily racism,” Fire­stone noted. “The Love thy Neigh­bor unity event was cre­ated to give com­mu­ni­ties who suf­fer daily from racism and dis­crim­i­na­tion, and to ally com­mu­ni­ties, an op­por­tu­nity to come to­gether and ask for sup­port.”

With ap­prox­i­mately 100 peo­ple in at­ten­dance and about 10 clergy from dif­fer­ent re­li­gions on hand, each guest was en­cour­aged to speak on the fol­low­ing topics: What I love about my faith com­mu­nity, What we would like peo­ple from out­side our com­mu­nity to know about the chal­lenges we face as a com­mu­nity in the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal cli­mate, and brain­storm­ing spe­cific re­quests for sup­port from the com­mu­nity-at-large.

River­bank com­mu­nity mem­bers in­clud­ing River­bank Uni­fied School District Su­per­in­ten­dent Dr. Daryl Camp and River­bank City Coun­cil mem­bers Dar­lene Bar­ber-Martinez and Cal Camp­bell were in at­ten­dance.

“I hope that the hor­ror of racism in our coun­try will bring us to­gether to see racism for what it is: an evil ide­ol­ogy, and do some­thing about it,” ex­pressed Fa­ther Avila. “The in­ter­faith gath­er­ing at my church proved that we can put our dif­fer­ences aside and just see each other as hu­man be­ings.”


The fa­cil­i­ta­tor for the newly formed Unify Stanis­laUS in­ter­faith al­liance Na’ama Fire­stone or­ga­nized the “Love thy Neigh­bor” event hosted at St. Frances of Rome Catholic Church in River­bank to give com­mu­ni­ties im­pacted by racism and dis­crim­i­na­tion an...


There were ap­prox­i­mately 100 peo­ple in at­ten­dance at the Unity gath­er­ing on Wed­nes­day.

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