Story printed on: Jul 11, 2002
LOCAL NEWS: Rockford
Faiths gather for Lao Buddhists
EDITH C. WEBSTER
The Rockford Interfaith Council organized the event to lead prayers of protection and support for different faiths. Council President Paul Whitham also presented checks collected to support rebuilding of the temple.
“It isn’t necessarily the amount of money we brought,” he said. “The significance is that we come as neighbors. We come encouraging others to be inclusive.”
Whitham would not disclose the amount the group collected but said that the total included a $125 check from the council. The prayer service was held on temple grounds, located at 6925 S. Mulford Road in rural Winnebago County.
Inside the house where the monks live, members display a chart listing the names of 120 individuals and couples who have made donations ranging from $5 to $1,000. Most are written in Laotian, but some names are recorded in English.
“I appreciate all the people from other religions trying to make understanding,” said Burmese monk Ashin Sudhamma. “We are living here peacefully, and anyone who wants to study Buddhism, please come.”
The Lao Buddhists, one of three Buddhist congregations in the Rock River Valley, were completing the conversion of a 100-by-30-foot barn into a new temple when a fire authorities labeled suspicious caused more than $100,000 in damage. The fire remains under investigation. The congregation’s previous temple, located at Mulford and Sandy Hollow roads, was firebombed in the mid-1980s.
Speakers at the interfaith service included Rockford Urban Ministries director Stanley Campbell, who thanked God for the freedom of worship, and Latter-day Saint Clyde Chatland, who said a prayer expressing thanks for “the blessing of diversity.”
Xay Nachampassack, who came to Rockford in 1982 from Laos, was one of many temple members who gathered at the temple when news of the fire spread through the Laotian community.
“People were very sad,” he said. “When they came here, they missed their country. The temple was the place to meet and eat and let go of their depression.”
Nachampassack was among a handful who returned for the interfaith prayer service.
“I feel very happy and very proud to be here in the United States because there is freedom of religion, freedom to do what you want.”
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