By Heather Yamour (news feature with photo) WASHINGTON, Sept 11 (KUNA) -- It was the worry to see her children grow up in New York in the wake of the attacks on September 11th, 2001, that prompted Ranya Idliby, a Muslim Palestinian, to begin a weekly interfaith dialogue, five years ago, with other mothers of different faiths.
Idliby and Priscilla Warner shared their experiences by launching an interfaith dialogue group, the Faith Club, as guest speakers for the September 11th Unity Walk, an event sponsored by over 100 churches, temples and embassies, that invited all faiths to gather for a sense of togetherness in the face of religious intolerance that grew from the largest terrorist attacks in United States history.
Through discussing their faith, God and religion, Idliby and Warner, who is Jewish, addressed their differences and misunderstandings but highlighted the commonalities their faiths shared and recorded it all in a memoir called the Faith Club. Together they joined a 1,000 people, from 2:00 to 6:20 p.m., for a two mile walk, led by national religious leaders, who carried unity banners, past flagship houses of worship dotted along Washington DC's prestigious Embassy Row, on the sixth anniversary of the attacks.
Along the Embassy Row route, Walkers were greeted with water and snacks by different congregations from the Washington Hebrew Congregation, Washington National Cathedral, Annunciation Roman Catholic Church, the National Sikh Gurdwara Temple, St. Alban's Episcopal Church, St. Sophia's Greek Orthodox Cathedral, the Community of Christ, and St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral, the National Islamic Center and the Soka Gakkai International Buddhist Temple.
This year marked the third-annual September 11th Unity Walk. According to founder Kyle Poole, and member of the Interfaith Conference (IFC), which coordinated the walk, it is a nonpolitical, Gandhi-inspired march in a show of solidarity for all faiths, without picking one over the other.
"There are people in all religions that are extremists but the bulk of all religions are very peaceful so we chose to highlight that," Poole said.
Programs handed out at the event advised Walkers to talk to each other in a bridge building effort to foster learning and understanding among the different faiths. "As you walk, please talk, we encourage you to talk with others who you don't know; people different from you," the program added "No slogans or signs, no proselytizing or politicking."
-- Many faiths partnered together during the event including Baha'is, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jain, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Zoroastrians, and Hara Krishnas.
Harinder Singh, a native of India and a practicing Sikh, brought his family and grandchild along on the walk because he wants to speak out against what he sees as growing religious indifference.
"I feel quite disturbed with all the things that are going on. We need to create synergy where people can start thinking in terms of how are we going to bring the humanity together," he said, pointing to his son-in-law and granddaughter in the crowd. The walk paused at the National Islamic Center, the country's oldest masjid, where everyone was invited to sample baklava and dates. People spilled into the courtyard to hear Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Sikh speakers at the podium, lead prayers and call for love and unity across the world.
"After the attacks on September 11th, religions have a huge responsibility as agents of healing and peace, but above all of building bridges and relationships, friendships for the common good, together," said Reverend Dr. Samuel T. Lloyd, Dean of the Washington National Cathedral. Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, the former High Commissioner of Pakistan to Great Britain and contemporary Islamic scholar, called on people to draw on the symbolism of the walk to draw on the powerful symbolism of the event.
"One drop begins to add up and eventually you will see that it becomes an ocean but that has to start somewhere. This, I hope, will precisely be the first series of drops that will change the world." Some people attended the event as a way of mourning the victims of the September 11th attacks like Lee Hamilton, who recently relocated to Washington DC from New York. His brother was in New York City the day of the September 11th attacks. He did not come to represent his Jewish faith but to mark the anniversary as a New Yorker.
"To me this is something that I feel connected to as a New Yorker, I feel like this is something I have to commemorate," he added. "We're all 99 percent the same more so than the one percent that drives us apart." The event culminated at the foot of the Mahatma Gandhi statue with food, musical performers and singers from a troupe of Hara Krishna performers and a speech by Harris Wofford, a close friend of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Side by side Walkers joined hands in prayer and sang the popular civil rights anthem "We shall overcome". Episcopal priest Reverend Claudia Merritt, who lost her best friend on September 11th when the plane she was on was flown into the pentagon, gave the closing speech calling on everyone to bring good from the tragedy and create a better world through personal action. There were 2,974 fatalities, not including the 19 hijackers: 246 on the four planes 2,603 in New York City in the towers and on the ground, and 125 at the Pentagon. (end) hy.rk