LOS ANGELES — On September 16, 2020, religious people all over California gathered together for a prayer rally held by California Zion Church.
California Zion Church announced their intention to hold an interreligious prayer meeting online calling for the end of the coronavirus and for the protection of Californians affected by the recent wildfires. It was held online on September 16th, with thousands praying together in solidarity. The event was notable for not being a prayer meeting of just one religious community, but of being able to bring together people of varying faiths — faith communities that, at times, have been hostile and antagonistic towards one another.
The California-based event follows the international event held by Shincheonji Church of Jesus, an international church established in South Korea.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, the Shincheonji Church has been leading the way in providing plasma donations to speed up the development of a plasma-based treatment for COVID-19. This is in step with the Church’s long-standing commitment to community service and volunteerism, as evidenced by their offer to donate $10 million USD for COVID-19 relief.
In collaboration with the Korean Center for Disease Control, the Shincheonji Church recently contributed to a plasma drive, where recovered victims of the coronavirus donated convalescent plasma for the purpose of research and treatment. Over the course of several days, over 1,100 members donated plasma — easily the largest convalescent plasma donation made for COVID-19 globally, since the pandemic first began.
In a recent letter addressed to the donors, Shincheonji Chairman Lee Man-Hee wrote, “I was delighted upon hearing the news of your intent to actively participate in donating plasma (blood) for the development of the vaccine for the cure of COVID-19.”
With over 4,000 members in total volunteering to donate their plasma, Shincheonji has inspired people worldwide to unite together in what they can do to help affected communities.
This prayer meeting was a chance for the members of California Zion Church to inspire those in their local communities. In California, many families have been directly impacted by COVID-19 and the wildfires that are ravaging California and Oregon homes. COVID-19 has also resulted in animosity towards religious groups, where many groups have found themselves on the receiving end of blame for the virus. If you look at past disasters, however, religious organizations have often worked to comfort and to care for those affected by disasters and calamities. That is why members of various communities, including the Anglican, Sikh and Cao Dai faiths, felt it was important to show solidarity during this time.
A representative from California Zion Church stated, “While so many are suffering from these disasters to no fault of their own, it doesn’t make sense to be divided. Rather, we wanted to focus on being united and showing that we are there for one another despite differences in churches, denominations, and religions.”
Other religious groups are also answering the call to action. Sikhs, for example, are famously doing their best to feed and care for the communities around their gurdwaras. Many have taken their charity work to the streets by delivering food to the needy and elderly at their doorsteps out of safety and necessity.
Of course, the members of California Zion Church know that prayer is not the only contribution religious groups can make at this time. Volunteers from the church have also begun to collaborate with local businesses to gather donations of needed items for the fire stations and firefighters in their cities.
The prayer meeting was a call for religious people everywhere to not only pray, but to take appropriate action to end the virus. The message is one that is needed and rings true during these difficult times: let us comply with the government mandates for the safety of others; and for those who are able, let us volunteer in the ways that we can to help and bring hope, rather than hate or blame, to the afflicted.