LIVINGSTON, NJ — The second annual Religions of the World program—produced virtually by the Livingston Committee for Diversity and Inclusion (LCDI) in conjunction with the Livingston Clergy Association and Livingston Vision 20/20—recently focused on “hope, resilience, patience and unity” as clergy members from local Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic and Jewish places of worship addressed the community and Livingston families invited viewers into their homes to see how they celebrate their individual holidays.
The event, co-hosted by Livingston residents Mike Ramer and Saba Khan, also included a trivia game, where Livingston High School (LHS) students quizzed young contestants from throughout the community on what they learned from the program, as well as musical performances from LHS student Jessica Woodlee and the LHS choir.
Pastor Dan Martian of the Presbyterian Church of Livingston mediated the conversation with the panel of clergy leaders.
“We celebrate our oneness, the way our religion brings us together, as people doing acts of charity and kindness for the common good,” said Martian, who was accompanied by Dr. Ali Chaudry representing the Islamic community, Rabbi David Vaisberg representing Judaism, Dipal Pandya representing Hinduism and Dr. Wei Chang representing Buddhism.
The clergymen each spoke of light as a common theme within the five religions that often represents knowledge, enlightenment and the idea that good will always triumph over evil.
Although Buddhism does not have a winter holiday, Chang explained that Buddhists often have meditation retreats during the winter, which he said is an important departure from everyday life and provides time to reflect on the world.
Martian revealed that although Christmas is celebrated near pagan Solstice (Dec. 21), Jesus was more likely born in the spring because of the shepherds who were known to be outside tending to their grazing sheep at the time of his birth. He noted that several Christmas traditions include gift giving, adorning trees with ornaments, cookies, advent calendars and family dinners on Christmas Eve and Christmas Night.
Pandya discussed that Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, lasts five-to-seven days and features special foods and prayers to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. It also celebrates spiritual good conquering evil. Those who celebrate often dress up, decorate their homes, exchange gifts and light candles or sparklers.
Chaudry spoke of Ramadan, celebrated the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar, when Muslims believe the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Muslims fasts during the day and pray, later enjoying break fasts with family members. Fasting is meant to purify the heart while increasing self-discipline and asking for forgiveness—all strengthen faith.
Vaisberg reported that Hanukkah is a minor Jewish holiday that celebrates two miracles: a small amount of oil lasting eight days and the little Jewish army defeating the Greek army that outnumbered them. It is celebrated with prayers, fried foods cooked in oil and lighting the menorah.
Residents can view the full Religions of the World celebration any time BY CLICKING HERE.
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