AAPI organised a solemn Candle Light Vigil and Inter-Faith Spiritual Session on Sunday, April 12th, 2020 in support of physicians and healthcare workers who have fallen victim for Covid-19. In his welcome note, Dr. Suresh Reddy stressed the importance of healthcare workers in fighting the deadly disease and introduced the moderators, Dr. Rajam Ramamurthy, past BOT Chair of AAPI and Dr. Jayesh Shah, Dr. Past President of AAPI.
The ceremony was led by spiritual leaders from almost all major religions and nearly 200 physicians from across the United States. Dr. Ramamurthy opened the Prayer Vigil by describing the significance of lighting the lamp, in each spiritual tradition. She led the participants by lighting a lamp in one’s own house as she chanted a Sanskrit Mantra and a Urdu poem. She asked the AAPI leaders to fold hands before the light that destroys darkness and evil. “We begin this auspicious moment, by the lighting of the lamp. Every participant in the meeting is welcome a light the lamp in one’s own tradition,” she said. Dr. Suresh Reddy lit the lamp on behalf of AAPI. Dr. Devraj Nayak opened the session with a prayer seeking God’s blessings.
Congressman Raja Krishnamurthy, in opening remarks expressed hope that everyone is doing well. Acknowledging the twin challenges the nation is facing today, namely the health crisis and economic crisis, he expressed his gratitude to the physicians and other healthcare professionals for their “dedication to the nation, for helping all to cope with the situation, guaranteeing the wellbeing of all. I am here for you and support in any ways regarding policy or economic assistance”.
Panelists on the Inter-faith meeting included Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, President-Elect of AAPI, Dr. Seema Arora, Chairwoman of AAPI’s Board of Trustees (BOT), Dr. Sajani Shah, Chairwoman-Elect of AAPI’s BOT, Dr. Anupama Gotimukula, Vice president of AAPI, Dr. Yasmeen Ansari, Regional Director, Osmania Medical Alumni Association, Dr. Birinder Marwah, Past Chair of AAPI Convention in Chicago.
Nissim Rueben, Indian Jewish Association of USA, stressed the importance of interfaith cooperation and compassion and shared about his work in supporting peoples of all faiths around the world. Lama Sean Jones, a Buddhist Priest, shared about the Buddhist tradition, and in this time of crisis how he is using online prayers from the host monetary, offering teaching and poojas and prayers, which needed more than ever now. “We take a lot for granted in our lives and now is the time to appreciate the blessing of life and for the need to help discover oneself and support each other in this journey. We need to be grounded in our own faith. To listen to them and be compassionate We need to have self-care and keep our spirits high, have a positive attitude and we can overcome this.”
Rev. Fr. Abi Chacko, Vicar, St. Mary’s Orthodox Church, Oak Lawn, IL, stressed the importance to stay connected and visible by using social media and offer help in reaching meds and groceries to the needy. He pointed out how the pandemic has become a unifier and the need is to instil hope and deepening our faith in God who helps us move forward positively. “It’s the Spirit of Humanity in our hearts that gives us the faith and courage to move forward.” He emphasised the need “for compassion and the tone that expresses our understanding of the feelings of the people who suffer. This is our calling and vocation not a job to be in the healthcare sector,” he said.
Mufti Hafiz Ahmed Rabbani, Islamic Association of Greater Detroit shared about the community out-reach to the members of the Masjid, and offering lectures online and distributing food and supplies to people and to health care providers in front line. Swami Ishatmanada, Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago, through a chanting from the Upanishad, led the group to pray to Goddess Durga to remove this pandemic and seeking forgiveness from God and praying. He pointed out to the two approaches the world is looking at, to heal the world off this pandemic: Scientific and Spiritual approaches.
“We should be strong in order to overcome and fight the pandemic. Life has changed so much. The role of religion is to teach us that this is a passing phase and we will overcome this one too. Prayer, meditation and enhancing spiritual power, developing common brotherhood of all, thus and we will all together overcome. Humanity is going to win,” Swami Ishatmanada said.
David Levy, Rabbi, American Jewish Committee, while sharing of the social media to keep the community together and strong in faith, said, “The corona virus cuts across all faiths. We are in all together experiencing and facing it and supporting and helping each other.” He referred to the Hindu-Jewish Coalition, formed first time in the US and about the amazing work with people of all faiths, addressing hate crimes around the country. “This has become a Coalition of Conscience to unite the world when there are people trying to divide us.”
Bhai Mohinder Singh pointed to how we are all guests on earth and how our life will change after this pandemic, and how all faiths can work together rather than fight with each other. He said, “All life is from one seed, one source, the same God. Recognising this truth will help us all work together and for all from all religions.”
With one minute of silence with folded hands and heads bowed, the AAPI members and spiritual leaders prayed for the speedy recovery of Drs. Ajay Lodha, Anjana Samaddar, Dr. Sunil Mehra and thousands of other healthcare professionals who are in the front line and are admitted to hospital and receiving treatment.
Dr. Jayesh Shah in his concluding remarks, said, “The Healthcare workers have been feeling vulnerable as the disease can affect them and their family members and sense of duty to serve at the same time. Today’s AAPI Inter-Faith Candlelight Vigil helped to put lot of healthcare workers to ease by spiritual leaders from various faith in these unprecedented times of COVID 19 Pandemic. Spiritual leaders also stressed importance of interfaith cooperation and compassion in the face of pandemic.”