Over 140 people attended an interfaith vigil for health care reform Sunday, August 23 at the First United Methodist Church in Omaha. Participants represented congregations throughout Omaha, including the First Christian Church, the Niagara Foundation, St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church, St. Agnes Parish, St. Francis of Assisi, and Claire Memorial United Methodist Church. Clergy led prayers and gave testimony in support of health care reform, and people came forward with moving personal stories of family and friends not able to afford the care they need.
Rev. Jane Florence of the First United Methodist Church opened the event saying, “We come together to honor the image of God residing in so many who are in our country who are without access to proper health care. Tonight we remember the millions of Americans who do not have funds for medical services.” Franco, a leader of a Guatemalan indigenous group from St. Francis of Assisi, gave a prayer in his native language, Qanjobal, and the vice president of the Niagara Foundation, Ferhat Ozturk, recited a passage from the Quran. Rev. Frederick McCullough of St. John’s African Methodist Episcopal Church gave a brief message on the need for health care. “It is time that pastors and congregations come together to speak out against the injustice we see in the health care system that robs the poor of the access that all deserve,” he said.
Associate Pastors Debra McKnight and Robyn Fickes were very involved in organizing the event along with the Interfaith Worker Justice. “As people of faith we believe worker justice is a moral imperative. Workers a struggling because wages are shrinking and insurance bills are climbing, universal coverage is a justice issues not a political one,” said Noel Andersen an organizer with the Interfaith Worker Justice.
People from various faith traditions participated in a creative expression by writing their unjust experiences and stories from the current health care system on a surgical mask. The masks were brought forward at the end of the prayer vigil for all to see and share. Some of the pastors will be going to Washington DC next month for a lobby day with the Service Employee International Union where they will share the stories printed on the masks with Nebraskan Senators and Congress persons.