More than 40 people of faith gathered together on Aug. 6 to silently pray for world peace at what organizer Karen Hochberg dubbed “an interfaith flash vigil” at Point State Park.
Hochberg, executive director of the Pittsburgh Area Jewish Committee, joined with Rev. Liddy Barlow, executive director of Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania, and Helene Paharik, associate general secretary for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, in organizing the 15-minute silent prayer vigil that included Christians, Muslims and Jews, from children to senior citizens.
The vigil’s organizers reached out to people of the Abrahamic faiths, Hochberg said, encouraging them to come to the vigil “to be together and to be in silence and to acknowledge our humanity” in commemoration of the 69th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.
A flyer emailed to community members advertised the vigil as an opportunity to together “pray for peace in Ukraine to Central America and beyond. May our silent prayer help to silence hatred and violence everywhere.”
Among those in attendance were Rabbi James Gibson and Rabbi Ronald Symons of Temple Sinai and Rabbi Sharyn Henry of Rodef Shalom.
Symons distributed a white flower to each participant in the prayer circle prior to a short address by Barlow.
The group had assembled to “send our healing prayers across all the troubled places of the world,” Barlow told the crowd before sounding a bell that signaled the beginning of the silence.
As the cars whirred on the parkway and nearby busy city streets, the group stood still in the heat, each person wordlessly holding his or her flower until Barlow rang the bell again, marking the elapse of 15 minutes time.
“We were hoping this would be what it was,” Hochberg told The Chronicle at the conclusion of the vigil. “A moment of quiet and safety in the city.”
In these days of so much turmoil in the world, Barlow said, the organizers of the vigil wished to provide an opportunity for people to join together in stillness and unity.
“We wanted to provide a place for people to find that still point within themselves,” Barlow said. “And we had exactly the kind of spirit we were hoping for. I hope we have more opportunities together for prayer in addition to dialogue.”
The interfaith gathering may serve to help lay the groundwork for productive conversations in the future, Hochberg said.
“There is a time for speech, and sometimes there’s a time for silence,” said Gibson, adding that an interfaith gathering such as the silent vigil “can plant the seeds of hope.”
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.