The tenth annual Interfaith Walk for Peace is Sunday, April 28 in Philadelphia. It's an opportunity to meet people from other backgrounds, people with other beliefs, and take a stand together for cross-cultural friendship.
What does that have to do with peace? "You can't lead a nation into war without first de-humanizing the enemy, and you can't de-humanize those you know as friends."
This was the theory of Rabbi Lynn Gottleib, founder of the Shomer Shalom Institute for Jewish Nonviolence, and originator of the forerunner of the Philadelphia event, ten years ago in Albuqurque. The Bush Administration had just invaded Iraq, after an 18-month campaign of confounding Osama bin Laden with Saddam Hussein, while subtly demonizing and de-humanizing Muslims. "They hate our freedom," he had said, and "they have no regard for human life." Gottleib thought that the way to counter these messages would be to bring two peoples together, to organize an event where Jews and Muslims could get to know one another while working toward a common goal. She joined forces with Imam Abdul Rauf Campos-Marquetti to lead the first event in Albuquerque.
Interfaith Walk for Peace by Emma Varvaloucas
A year later, replicating the event in Philadelphia, they were joined by Vic Compher, from the Tabernacle United Church, and the event ever since has been rooted in three religious traditions. Long-time peace activist Renate Woessner has been on the ground organizing these events all ten years, and it was her initiative to bring in other cultures as well: Native Americans, B'Hai, Krishna disciples, Sikhs and (of course) Buddhists.
The three houses of worship visited this year have been chosen to echo the first Philadelphia Interfaith Walk in 2004. The event begins 2:00 PM at Al Aqsa Mosque, 1501 Germantown Ave (near 4th St, just North of Girard). At 3:10, the march will arrive at the Church of St Augustine, 234 N Lawrence St, near 4th and Vine. The final stop at 4:30 is Congregation Rodeph Shalom, 615 N Broad St, just North of Spring Garden. Songs, prayers, poems and cultural programs will be followed by refreshments and fellowship (5:30) at the Rodeph Shalom. Founder Lynn Gottleib will be a featured speaker.
"Yes, you are welcome here. In the space between the brightest day and the darkest night there is room for all."
We oppose "fear-mongering, slander and the spreading of hatred toward others on the basis of their race, gender or national identity" because such attitudes alienate us from each other and from our own souls, and ultimately they drain us of the empathy that stands between humanity and war.
-- Lynn Gottleib
Peacewalkers are welcome to enter sacred places of worship the may have never been before...It is our honor and privilege to be among you!
-- Adab Ibrahim
from the Interfaith Peace Walk web site
- to build bridges across the divides that separate us.
- to celebrate diversity and to learn from each other.
- to seek peace, in our streets, in our world, and our hearts.
- to leave our children and grandchildren a more sustainable world.
- to bear witness that the only way to lasting peace is through justice.