We were deeply saddened by the hate crime that took place over the Easter weekend when someone entered the chapel and meditation center at the UCLA Medical Center and poured a bottle of what was labeled as pig’s blood over prayer mats that are used by Muslim visitors.
We have worked incredibly hard to build an interfaith team of chaplains, an interfaith advisory board and interfaith community to meet the spiritual and religious needs of patients, their families and our own employees.
If you enter the office of the Department of Spiritual Care at the hospital on any given day, you would see rabbis, Roman Catholic priests, Buddhist monks in full robes, Muslims and Christians of numerous denominations — all working side by side in dialogue with each other and focused on providing spiritual care to those hospitalized in the medical center.
Our chapel and meditation room are a spiritual sanctuary of inclusiveness and respect for all faiths. For years, it has been the place where people of many faiths have come to pray. This hate act does not and will not keep us from praying. Our chapel will continue to be used by all who desire to come into that sanctuary.
What I am most grateful for in the midst of this incredibly difficult time is the overwhelming response of the staff, faculty, students and everyone associated with UCLA.
I could talk for hours about the people who have come together to support us. Their empowering, supportive responses have been humbling.
Let me quote from just a few of the numerous e-mails and phone calls I’ve received since that incident was discovered.
One person wrote: “This hate act compels me to continue to work with others of all faiths to strengthen the spirit of respect and trust in our community.” And from another: “Hateful displays wound everyone’s soul. This despicable act brings tears to my eyes. Please let me know how I can be of support.”
There were numerous e-mails from Muslims, Jews, Christians and Buddhists asking if there was any way they could send a donation to replace the Muslim prayer rugs that were destroyed.
And there was the staff member, a young woman, who walked into our office one day with an envelope. She had been walking the halls of the medical center asking people if they wanted to make a donation to replace the prayer rugs.
She looked at me and said: “I’m not a Muslim. I’m Jewish.”
From the strong solidarity shown April 25 at a press conference at the medical center by the hospital administration, law enforcement community of Los Angeles and leaders of civil rights groups representing many ethnicities and religions, it is clear that this desecrating act is uniting us and the community that supports the UCLA Medical Center. This only strengthens our commitment to continue to serve the spiritual and religious needs of all people.
The belief in God that is shared by the faith traditions in this community always has and always will overcome hate.