Chicago Tribune: Prayers, Pledges From Chicago

Area religious groups alter traditions, messages to remember the dead and offer help to survivors of the earthquake and tsunami in South Asia

In Islam, the traditional funeral prayer is called Salat Al-Janazah. But during their regular Jumu’ah prayer services at mosques across the Chicago area Friday, congregations instead said Salat Al-Ghaib. Prayers for the absent.

As the death toll from the earthquake and tsunami in South Asia climbed past the 121,000 mark Friday, religious communities responded with sacred rituals to remember the dead and looked for ways to help survivors. Hindu temples and missions around the region scheduled mass prayers for noon Sunday. Clergy members penned weekend sermons with the message of giving to those in immediate need.

For 27 years the congregation at Wat Dhammaram, a Thai Buddhist temple at 7059 West 75th St., has welcomed the new year with music, dance and blessings. But on Friday evening the traditional observance began with funeral chanting, and the annual gathering was turned into a fundraiser to benefit the Thai consulate’s tsunami relief fund, said monk Boonshoo Sriburin “We changed the mood, the tone of the new year [celebration] to dedication,” he said.

During Friday prayers at the Islamic Cultural Center in Northbrook, spiritual leader Imam Senad Agic urged members to do something different Jan. 20 as they observe Eid-ul-Adha, a holiday during which Muslims traditionally donate money to buy meat for the poor.

This year, he suggested, they might consider directing their gifts to help feed survivors of the tsunami. The center also has set up accounts in three Asian countries to speed the delivery of cash to those who need it, said Ahmed Rehab, communications director for the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Rehab, who attended services at the center Friday, said funds from the congregation will be collected over time, and no total was immediately available. “I did overhear one doctor giving $25,000,” he said.

Large donations also streamed forth at the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, where an appeal from Imam Jamal Said raised $75,000 in three minutes. Sunlight poured through the windows of the mosque as men assembled for prayer lifted their hands to make individual pledges of $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000. “I’m very proud of the world community,” the imam said before the service, which drew well over 1,000 worshipers. “When something like this happens, it brings us back to the reality that we are one family.”

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