Interfaith Memorial Observance for Indigent Persons
“What’s in the name?” asked The Rev. Dr. Myron F. McCoy, Senior Pastor of First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple. Individuals from diverse backgrounds gathered to bear witness to the inherent dignity of each human being as a member of God’s community. Toni Preckwinkle, President, Cook County Board of Commissioners, movingly assured all those present that the Cook County Coroner’s Office takes great care to handle the bodies respectfully. Such diligence would certainly be expected, and maybe even demanded, by the deceased’s families. However, this consciousness and sense of accountability felt by Ms. Preckwinkle was especially deep because the deceased being memorialized that day were indigent – no family nor friends to claim their bodies nor mark their passing. The only proof of existence was the deceased’s name.
Kifar Shukair, Muslim Chaplain, University of Chicago Hospitals led the Readings from the Qur’an. Paloma Cabetas, Midwest Director of Focolare Movement followed with reminders from the Scriptures about one’s responsibility towards the fellow human being, in life and in death.
This event, the Thirty First Annual Interfaith Memorial Observance for Indigent Persons, was held on May 25, 2016. It was founded by Chicagoan W. Earl Lewis, who had read about the burial of indigent people in mass graves and was moved to establish the Annual Interfaith Memorial Service. Every year since 1986, the Memorial Ministry for Indigent Persons gathers a diverse group of individuals to offer the Prayer Service and conduct a “Reading of the Names,” to honor the deceased as well as fulfill the community’s duty to God. This year, 372 indigent persons were memorialized.
CIOGC works with the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office to offer assistance in arranging an Islamic burial for any deceased Muslim whose remains may come under the care of that agency. Since CIOGC created the collaboration among the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office, Muslim Funeral Services and Muslim Community Center, three Muslim Indigent Deceased have been identified and given a proper Islamic burial (2 in 2015 and 1 in 2016).