An early dawn last month brought together a unique interfaith group in Los Angeles for a day of breaking barriers.
Twenty Muslims and Jews gathered at a local park and prayed side by side before embarking on a day-long citywide journey of co-joined prayers throughout the Californian city with the goal of spreading their message that, through prayer, even those perceived as 'enemies' could break down barriers and usher in a sense of peace.
The initiative, coined "Two Faiths One Prayer," was birthed out of its participants' former experience in an eight-month fellowship which focused on conflict resolution, leadership training, and interfaith teachings. This "Newground: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change" fellowship sowed the seeds for an interfaith praying experience, teaching its fellows of the others religious practices while fostering close friendships that tore down previous biases and misperceptions. It was also where participants came to realize the overlapping of Jewish and Muslim prayer times.
And that is where the "Two Faiths One Prayer" journey began.
Inspired to promote the lessons of tolerance and acceptance garnered on the fellowship experience, the small group of 20 sought out to practice co-joined prayer on the public streets of Los Angeles.
"We're trying to show the world that Jews and Muslims are friends," a participant said in a video documenting the event. "We're illustrating to the world that Jews and Muslims can pray in a meaningful way, side by side."
They took on the streets on May 3rd, making their way from the picturesque beaches of Santa Monica at dawn, the pier still lit up behind them pre-sunrise, to a local park by noon, followed by an open space in between two of the city's museums, where they sat on grassy lawns and prayed as passerby respectably walked by and took interest.
The group, in the span of a day, made its way from the morning prayers of Shacharit and Fajr, to Mincha and Asr at noon, before concluding with Ma'ariv and Maghreb come nightfall.
The fourth stop in their journey was the only one that broke the cycle of the groups exclusivity - it was the sole praying destination open to the public.
Participants from around the city and county ushered in with friends and family members to join the original pluralistic group of 20 in prayers. The crowd exceeded all expectations; A swarm of around 100 inundated the steps of LA's City Hall, joining in prayers and reflections on coexistence.
"It's been incredible how meaningful my prayer has become when its more inclusive," a Jewish participant said of the experience. "Today, there's a wholeness in my life that I don't generally feel."
The organizing group concluded their day of prayer on a rooftop of a local building at dusk, overlooking the downtown skyline.
"Two Faiths One Prayer" hopes to trigger a series of similar initiatives promoting coexistence worldwide - to plant a "seed of hope and a seed of possibility," in regions beyond their physical reach.
By Coral Braun
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