Fifty-three years after the first Chicago Prayer Breakfast began in 1964, the Grand Ballroom of the Chicago Hilton became a sanctuary for nearly 1,000 business leaders, politicians, clergy, and civic leaders on December 2 for the 53rd Annual Chicago Leadership Prayer Breakfast. The Sunday Evening Club envisioned these welcoming gatherings in the heart of the Loop Business District as far back as 1908. Far away from any paralysis that may have been felt post-2016 elections, the atmosphere in the room was not only filled with hope but a call to action – a focal point of this special event.
That day it began with rousing music by the choir from Harmony Hope, which set the tone with “Prayer for Peace.” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, as she has done in numerous forums before, pushed the audience to confront the challenges of the city. Jane Charney of Domestic Affairs for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Chicago gave a blessing over the meal that was a reminder of God’s constant presence as well as His expectations of His people to establish truth and justice. The choir played again – this time a beautiful call “If You’re Out There.”
Senator Richard “Dick” Durbin reminded all those who were there about the challenges that lay ahead and to prepare to protest. “We won’t allow our nearly half a million fellow Illinoisan Muslims to be registered,” he declared. “And we will not allow our undocumented brothers and sisters to be taken away from their families nor the young people to lose their dream of making it in American.” As if he anticipated the anxiety in those who wondered about the enormity of the dark days that lay ahead, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich recalled the story of a little boy who was offered by King to have all the treasures his hands could hold. “The boy looked at his hands and then looked at the King’s much larger ones and stated ‘I’ll take the gold that’s collected with your hands!’ That is an important lesson for all of us to remember,” stated the Cardinal. “Regardless of our good intentions, none of us can achieve on our own what we can accomplish with the help of others.”
Over the past ten years, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC) has been sponsoring a table at the event and inviting Chicago Muslim leaders to attend this inspirational breakfast gathering of Chicagoans who are passionate about their city and fellow human beings. From religious leaders to business icons, everyone in that room seemed to have been energized by the hope, passion, and work of others. Among the attendees representing CIOGC was Treasurer Tasneem Osmani and Executive Director, Tabassum Haleem, who also gave the closing prayer, Surah Fatihah, from the Qur’an. As if she could not wait to put her faith into action, an executive from a charitable family foundation pulled Ms. Haleem aside and asked how her organization can support CIOGC’s work. This moment exemplifies the purpose of the gathering in which community leaders for one common goal: working together for the greater good.
With a platform that has successfully nurtured community relationships and created opportunities for unified action, the small group of business leaders who aspired to hold welcome gatherings in their beloved city of Chicago over a hundred years ago surely would be proud about the fruits of their labor.