Naperville prayer event envisions 'world where everyone belongs'
A long-standing prayer event in Naperville will stress a vision of unity against racism during its 2020 World Peace Day Interfaith Prayer Service.
The service, based on the theme "2020 Vision: Seeking a World Where Everyone Belongs," is set for 2:30 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Wentz Hall on the campus of North Central College, 171 E. Chicago Ave.
As organizers prayed over how to focus the event, Tom Cordaro, justice and outreach minister at Naperville's St. Margaret Mary Parish, said they kept coming back to the hurt that lingers from two racially charged episodes last fall.
In October, a multiracial group of 18 children and adults was asked to switch seats at Buffalo Wild Wings in Naperville because staff members told them two white customers did not want to sit next to black people. In November, a student at Naperville Central High School posted an image of a black classmate with the heading "Slave for Sale (NAPERVILLE)."
"The evil of racism is still alive and still in the hearts and minds of people," Cordaro said.
So organizers with an interfaith group of religious leaders invited someone who has been working against hate and racism for years to be the service's keynote speaker. Regina Brent, founder and president of Unity Partnership, will give a 25-minute speech about the theme of belonging.
"That came pretty easy to me," said Brent, of Aurora, whose Unity Partnership nonprofit works to build relationships between police and minority communities, engage youth and conduct outreach.
"We have to speak in general to all faiths through love, understanding, through the golden rule, through generosity, through patience and kindness," she said. "And let the audience know that we must lean on one another for strength, for healing and to bring about joy."
Brent, a member of DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lisle, said she has attended the World Peace Day prayer service in the past and praised its efforts to teach that "everybody is a child of God."
Before Brent speaks, representatives of several faith communities will offer brief prayers, many of which will come in the form of songs.
For one example, singers from the grass-roots group United for Peace will perform a peace song in Hindi, "Saath Chale Hum," which means "Let's Walk Together."
To conclude the free event, there will be what Cordaro described as a "communal affirmation of commitment to community and compassion."
In English first, then in languages including Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi and Punjab, the crowd together will say, "Everyone is welcome."
A reception will follow with food, coffee, conversations about faith communities and information about getting counted in the 2020 census.