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Interfaith Peacebuilding

CALENDAR OF EVENTS

April 2019
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Interfaith Programs

Christian, Jewish and Muslim Peacemakers Come to Washington, D.C.

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Thousands of peacemakers came to celebrate peace on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol on August 9 at the Global Peace Festival USA. The gathering, billed as the largest interfaith and multicultural event ever held in Washington, D.C., was the second in a series of fifteen Global Peace Festivals this year, with the next planned for late August in Nairobi, Kenya.

“The great thing about the Festival is that it brings people together with neighbors from other faiths and cultures in a safe encounter,” said the Festival’s executive director, Paul Murray, pastor of a fast-growing church in Baltimore. “When people see Muslims and Jews from Jerusalem and other trouble spots embracing each other in tears of forgiveness and reconciliation on the stage, they naturally reach out to those of other faiths in the crowd.”

Throughout the afternoon, the air vibrated with the sounds of prayers and songs of peace in many different keys. The Black Bear Native American singers called the crowd to order with a traditional prayer dance, and Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi and a large Muslim delegation shared traditional Islamic prayers of peace.

Several speakers reminded the crowd of the parallels with another great gathering in Washington 45 years ago, when Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his immortal message, “I have a dream.” Dr. Joseph E. Lowery, one of King’s closest aides during the 1960s, said the time had come to fulfill King’s dream of creating the beloved community. “We must become the ‘Joshua Generation’ that Martin envisioned,” Lowery said, “leading the world into a promised land as One Family Under God.”

Several examples of reconciliation took place on the festival stage. Marita Michael, the mother of a boy who was murdered outside Washington, D.C.'s Anacostia High School in 2003, embraced Michelle Postell, the mother of her son's killer. And Elik Elhanen, an Israeli Jew whose 14-year-old sister was killed during a suicide attack in Jerusalem, connected with Aziz Abu Sarah, a Palestinian whose brother was beaten to death by Israeli soldiers.

Latin Grammy winner Juan Fernando Velasco and gospel superstars Yolanda Adams and David Phelps – with seven Grammies between them – were among the many entertainers keeping the crowd in a festive mood, with additional performances from the 500-voice Global Peace choir and a strong contingent of local youth groups singing the Global Peace Festival theme song, “Where Peace Begins.”

The Festival also celebrated the power of service to transform people and communities. “Service is just another way of saying 'I love you,'” said Rev. Mark Farr of the Points of Light Institute, a lead festival partner. The Institute, along with the Universal Peace Federation, Boys and Girls Clubs of Washington D.C., and more than 242 partner agencies organized a recent citywide day of service.

A “Food for Peace” drive helped fill the shelves of the Capitol Area Food Bank, which recently revealed to the Washington Post that thousands of families were newly at risk of hunger. Festival goers brought food from as far away as Chicago.

Over the past three months, GPF partnered with faith-based organizations, non-profits, youth groups, and others in the Washington Metro area and around the country. Hundreds of service projects, prayer breakfasts, interfaith dialogues, sports competitions, and other initiatives both small and large took place. A Service and Cultural Expo the afternoon of the festival showcased many opportunities for people to get involved in serving their local communities. Organizers are hoping for a "million acts of service and kindness" that will continue long after the Festival is over.

The global theme of the Peace Festival is “One Family Under God” – a world without the barriers of race and religion – and the leadership role of America as the model of interfaith harmony.

“I want to share a new vision for America,” said Dr. Hyun Jin Moon, the Global Peace Festival chairman and the third son of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. “It is a vision rooted in our nation’s founding principles, taking the ideal of one nation under God and bringing it one step further into a greater, universal ideal, of one family under God. One world family of peace is a dream for Americans and all people of faith, and most of all, it is the dream of God.”

 

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