Where there is unity, there will be reconciliation and healing, according to religious leaders who gathered at an interfaith prayer breakfast on Tuesday, commemorating the L.A. riots that took place 25 years ago on April 29.
The two-hour-long prayer breakfast, which was attended by some 100 individuals, took place at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple and featured a panel and messages by Korean American, African American, Latino American, and Jewish American faith leaders.
“I’m so grateful for this morning,” said Hyepin Im, the president and CEO of Korean Churches for Community Development (KCCD), which hosted the event. “This room is full of the diversity and strength of the city of Los Angeles.”
“We have come a long way in 25 years, but we still have a long way to go,” said Rabbi Beau Shapiro of Wilshire Boulevard Temple. “And in our tradition, the only way to get there is to join hands, march together, pray together, and work together.”
During the panel, five faith leaders – Chris Halverson, a former U.S. Senate Chaplain; Rev. John Jongdai Park, a co-chair of the KCCD board; Mark Whitlock, the senior pastor of Christ Our Redeemer AME Church; Jesse Miranda, the CEO of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; and Laura Geller, the Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills – shared their experiences at the time when the L.A. riots occurred.
John Jongdai Park’s experience with the L.A. riots included protecting one of his congregants’ stores in Long Beach overnight, with visits from a few groups of gang members who threatened to loot the store.
“I was afraid during that time,” Park said, “and I thought of the fear that that congregant would have felt over the previous few days.”
Park added that those who participated in the riots weren’t the ones to blame, but the “evils” that caused the riots, such as poverty and injustice.
Jesse Miranda described the way he saw media portray the turn of events at the time. One particular photo featured in a newspaper, Miranda said, featured “a Korean merchant with a gun protecting his store, Hispanics taking the merchandise, and African Americans standing in the corner watching the action.”
“But the reality is,” said Miranda, “we are all responsible for what had happened.”
In a brief message during the event, Michael Lee, the senior pastor of Young Nak Celebration Church, encouraged those who gathered to “consider what are the ways God has blessed us, so that we can use those blessings to then bless others,” and said that just as God had blessed Abraham to be a blessing to all nations, “God has blessed us.”
“God has given us all that we need for life,” Lee said, and added that those resources can be used “to alleviate poverty, to fight injustice, and to give a voice to the voiceless.”
But there are also other, immaterial ways God gives his blessings, he added, such as giving grace, mercy, and forgiveness, which are just as necessary to bless others, and to take steps toward healing and reconciliation.
“Don’t get me wrong, there absolutely needs to be truth, accountability, justice, and change on all sides,” said Lee. “But if we can begin to offer real forgiveness and take steps towards real reconciliation and healing towards others, think what a blessing we could be to … our city – the city of angels – to our state, to our nation, and to this great earth.”
Meanwhile, KCCD will be hosting another event on April 29 at Oriental Mission Church commemorating the 25th anniversary of the L.A. riots, from 3 to 6 PM.