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At 2 p.m. on Friday, April 17, leaders from several faiths with communities in the RGV gathered virtually with the aim of providing hope and unity during the pandemic.
Hosted by Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez, the Interfaith Hour of Prayer and Reflection was streamed live through the county’s YouTube, Facebook and Twitter pages. The interfaith religious leaders represented included Rev. Daniel E. Flores, Bishop of the Diocese of Brownsville; Imam Noor Ahmad, former Imam of McAllen Mosque; Rabbi Nathan Farb, Rabbi for Temple Emanuel; Lolita Pagarani, a Bahai from McAllen; Pastor Juan de la Garza, Palmview Iglesia de Pueblo; Pastor Joe Ramientos; and Kala Kasba, Hindu Temple.
Cortez stated that he is a man of faith, so he asked the religious leaders to offer a prayer for county residents during the coronavirus crisis.
“Hidalgo County is a community of many communities – our people come from all over the world,” Cortez said. “We speak many languages, we look different, we practice different religions, but together we make up this wonderful community that we call the Rio Grande Valley.”
Cortez added that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of pain and suffering to people across the world.
“Businesses have had to shut down, workers can’t work and restrictions have been imposed that people have never seen before,” Cortez said, stating that this was the reason he decided to hold the interfaith hour of prayer. “A community that prays together stays together, and together, today, we will ask for God’s blessings.”
Lolita Pagarani, a member of the Bahai community in the RGV, said that she hopes their prayers dispel the spread of the virus.
“We pray that the members of Hidalgo County and all of humanity are kept safe and well-protected,” Pagarani said. “We ask that our leaders be given added strength each morning to solve this COVID-19 epidemic.”
Bishop Daniel Flores, speaking for the Catholic community, gave a prayer over the entire RGV and asked that we keep local leaders in mind for their continued courage in the face of uncertainty.
“The Lord God continues to be with us even as we journey towards him, we ask the Lord to accompany us in mysterious ways in these difficult days as we walk together,” Flores said. “In a community of different religious faiths and communities of belief, may we continue to assist one another especially in those human needs, and it’s in that spirit that we pray.”
Imam Noor Ahmad, from the McAllen Mosque, represented the Muslim community in the RGV. He first thanked physicians, nurses, first responders and all hospital staff for keeping our area safe and putting their own lives at risk for the health of everyone.
“We have come from God, and even the sicknesses, the misery, the calamities, whatever comes in this world to us is temporary, this is only to test us,” Ahmad said. “One thing that is truly evident from this pandemic is that we are all in need of a higher power – this microscopic [virus] that cannot be seen by the maked eye has shaken the most powerful nations to their core and brought economies to a standstill, so it reminds us that the only one that can heal us is our God.”
Rabbi Nathan Farb spoke for the Jewish community, and will be joining the Temple Emmanuel this summer. He was glad to be joining a community where interfaith leaders can come together in an act of unity.
“This is a sacred moment, I look forward to a time when we can greet each other in person,” Farb said. “At this time we seek God’s strength and wisdom of judgement to be present in our world.”
Cortez ended the conference by thanking all leaders from every faith for their support and participation.
“God gave us a great gift, and that was the promise of eternal life,” Cortez said. “He also gave us the gift of family and directed us to be giving and loving and to minister to the needs of others. For this family that we have here in the Rio Grande Valley, we will survive this. We will come out better from this, and we can show the whole world that the RGV and Hidalgo County are great communities.”