AURORA, Ill. - Muslims in the western suburbs marked the end of a holy period of fasting with a huge drive-in prayer service.
Wednesday’s gathering marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
It’s called Eid al-Fitr, the "Festival of Breaking the Fast," and Muslims mostly from Aurora and Naperville transformed the parking lot at the Fox Valley Mall into a place of worship joining in prayer.
The service was carried over the radio for those who chose to stay in their cars. Others gathered in front of a stage with loudspeakers keeping their social distance.
Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin welcomed everyone, saying the city’s Muslim community has made Aurora a better place.
Worshipers talked about the special significance of a peaceful commemoration especially in light of the violence in the Middle East.
"Our brothers and sisters are just worried about survival. Imagine being in a mosque your place of sanctuary and safety and then being attacked inside a mosque," Imam Rizwani Ali, religious director of the Islamic Center of Naperville, said.
"It’s important for us on this day to remember those that are going through the hardships in Palestine right now, but also those that are ill. Some of them suffering from the virus," he said.
Kashif Fakhruddin, president of the Islamic Center of Naperville, said he appreciates the chance to worship with a large group.
"We are connected through hearts to have a spiritual connectivity. But this opportunity that we have been given through the city of Aurora means a lot," Fakhruddin said.
During the prayer, construction crews went about their work feet away operating noisy heavy equipment. Just beyond that, large animatronic dinosaurs could be seen at the new drive-through adventure Dino-Safari.
But given what is happening in Gaza today, worshipers said they felt nothing but fortunate to use this shopping mall parking lot for a safe and peaceful event.