ST. GEORGE — For more than 65 years, people of faith have gathered in the United States on the first Thursday of May to pray for the nation during the National Day of Prayer. Over the years, members of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City have participated in the event; this year, Fr. Langes Silva, judicial vicar, gave the opening prayer at the Salt Lake City event (see photo, p. 15), and Bishop Oscar A. Solis was the keynote speaker at the National Day of Prayer breakfast organized by the St. George Interfaith Council.
The breakfast, on May 2 at the Dixie Convention Center, drew more than 500 people. Among those attending were St. George Mayor John Pike; county commissioners Dean Cox, Victor Iverson and Gil Almquist; representatives of the Chamber of Commerce; and numerous faith leaders.
The breakfast fell on Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom Hashoah.
Millions of European Jews died because of anti-Semitism, “the hatred of Jewish people based on nothing more than their ethnicity,” said the president of the Interfaith Council, Rabbi Helene Ainbinder of the Beit Chaverim Jewish Community of Southern Utah, in her welcoming remarks.
“The Holocaust did not happen in a day, or a few days; it was a slow, barbaric plan to make the Jewish people become an extinct race,” she said.
Speaking the Hebrew word for “remember,” the rabbi said, “Today, we remember all the non-Jewish people that bravely risked their lives, their family’s lives, to save Jewish people. These people are honored, and we call them ‘righteous Gentiles.’ Today … I remember all the people of my family that had their lives cut short. I honor them by continuing to speak out against anti-Semitism. I honor them by speaking out against hateful speech and actions.”
During the breakfast, prayers were given by representatives of various faiths: Elder Daren Barney, Area Authority Seventy, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Pastor Joe Doherty of New Promise Lutheran; and Carole Drake of St. George Catholic Church. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Elder Jim Hetrick of the Community of Christ.
In his keynote address, Bishop Solis said he found joy and inspiration in the gathering, which was a time “to lift our hearts and minds in prayer in a spirit of warm fellowship and fraternity” and “to help each other encounter the living presence of God in our midst and in our world.”
The United States and the world are facing serious challenges that need immediate attention, such as senseless violence that has killed people in places of worship, as well as polarization in politics, economics, culturally and socially, he said, adding that people are “highlighting more of our differences rather than strengthening the bonds of our commonalities that unite us and help build one global community.”
Many people are abandoning their faith, the influence of extreme materialism and individualism have eroded the sense of the supreme deity, and religious expression is being banned in public places, he said.
As leaders, those at the breakfast must work “to bring back prayer as an important component of our lives, and make again God the center of our being and the center and purpose of our existence,” he said.
Occasions of fellowship anchored in prayer like the breakfast are needed, he said, “to promote unity, civility, solidarity and once again capture the goodness of humanity. … Our faith in God can be an effective antidote to the crisis of our time.”
Faith can be an instrument to build bridges toward one another, he said, adding, “Let faith be our common path to peace and harmony.”