Drought in California Gets Interfaith Help

3317690034_9fa4174ffe_zAs summer arrives here in California, it’s hard to get excited about the long, hot days. Our wild fire season started early this year, with clouds of smoky air darkening the skies all over the state. The extended drought, linked to climate change, makes it hard for farmers to make a living, and Californians used to spending the long days floating around Shasta or Folsom Lakes will have to look elsewhere for escape from the record-breaking heat.

As the four-year drought marches on, some are asking God for relief. Across Southern California, a variety of people from different faiths and cultures are coming together in united prayer.

“We are asking you, God, to send the rain upon us,” said Imam Zafrullah Hanjra in front of more than 100 congregants, including Christian, Sikh, Hindu, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints clergy. The audience at the Baitul Hameed Mosque in Chino listened to his words as they sat on purple and red blankets in the parking lot, under the beating sun.

Last May, the mosque successfully prayed for rain. Rounds of rare spring storms swept through Southern California, along with heavy winds and snow. The drenching caught many by surprise. “We don’t see these kinds of storms this late in May,” Stuart Seto with the National Weather Service in Oxnard said, “and not this cold.”

Hopefully, their prayers will be answered again, especially now that they’re becoming more collective.

“The world’s three great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all came from the desert, where water was precious,” said the Rev. Michael Miller of St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Chino. “Water is the fluid of life.”

June Lievas, a member of the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe, who lives in the desert around the Colorado River, may not call herself Catholic, but she supports Rev. Miller’s idea. She prays for water so that the life of the desert — the insects, rabbits, foxes, wild burros, and plants — can survive in a temperature that’s been hovering around 115 degrees.

The Tribe has no spiritual ceremony for rain, but “in the stories of our people, we came from the animals,” said Lievas.

Of course, religous groups in California aren’t only praying for rain, they’re also taking action to conserve water. The Epsicopal Church of St. John the Baptist in Aptos built one of the largest rainwater-collection systems in the country and features drought-tolerant landscaping. The Salam Center in Sacramento is taking a hard look at their water use. And the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno is establishing a citizens committee to educate the community on water conservation.

Whether it’s prayer or action, California can use all the help it can get.

Image available on Flickr

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About the Author

I'm an organic-eating, energy-saving naturalist who composts and tree hugs in her spare time. I have a background in environmental law, lobbying, and field work. I believe in God; however, I do not call myself a Christian or a Jew or a member of any religion. I am merely someone who finds a spiritual connection to all humans and the environment. You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .