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CAIR-Chicago mourns the deaths of people without families, friends

By Nicholas Short

Feature 334 There are numerous people from different backgrounds in the United States who journey through life without friends and family members to care for them. And when these people die, there is no one to claim them. This is the reason that the First United Methodist Church launched interfaith memorial observances over twenty years ago—to provide an honorable goodbye for those who died alone.

This year, on May 20, the church continued its tradition by paying tribute to 219 deceased individuals (many who suffered from drug addiction, mental illness, and other conditions without any support) for the 24th Annual Interfaith Memorial Observance for Indigent Persons. It received support from representatives of religious organizations in Chicago, including leaders from the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Christian community.

Rev. Dr. Philip Blackwell, the senior pastor at First United Methodist Church, led the group of speakers as they spoke for indigent individuals who passed away and those who are still alive. CAIR-Chicago Outreach Coordinator Gerald Hankerson, who spoke on behalf of the Muslim community, said, “This is truly an honorable event that should send out the message that every life is precious, every person should be buried with dignity.”

Euclid Avenue United Methodist Church Pastor, Rev. Dr. Martha L. Scott, contributed to the event by presenting a keynote address that stressed the importance of charity and society’s responsibility to ensure that people of all backgrounds receive the love and support they need.

A quote by First United Methodist Church founder W. Earl Lewis (1949-1999) carried the message of the uplifting event:

"To live and die alone is a human tragedy, but not to be remembered and mourned...after earthly an ugly blemish on human dignity."

Speakers and attendees expressed their sympathies and admiration by joining together in prayer, singing spiritual hymns, and following along with ceremonial readers as they read the names of those who died. Each of the readers lit a candle in memory of the deceased.

CAIR-Chicago supports the First United Methodist Church as it urges everyone to not only cherish those who passed away but to also help those who are still alive and desperately need support. For more information about the church, go to

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