Fighting fear and xenophobia through our public commitment to each other is a preemptive peace action, a public declaration that is vitally important when fear at times misguides our citizens toward mistrust, hatred, and harm. It is the role of spiritual leaders to show themselves publicly, so that others, less sure of themselves, will not lose their way, will not succumb to fear, hatred, and harm, but will be drawn to goodness through our very public and common action together.
For four years running we organized the IWagePeace Walk in New Haven County. With each walk attendance grew to over five hundred participants and more than thirty-five sponsors from churches, mosques, synagogues and peace communities. The sponsoring Houses of Worship and Peace Building organizations placed their names on the IWagePeace Walk T-Shirt under the phrase "We don't need to agree on everything to work together for justice and peace." We focus not simply on the word "Peace", but "Peace and Justice" combined, believing it is never enough to proclaim peace without faithful non-violent action to correct injustice and heal suffering.
Peacemakers can be soldiers and they can be civilians; they are the people who heal our conflicts by reaching out to those we fear, those we abuse, or those under whom we suffer abuse, forming relationships, calling them "friend," so we can build a future together. In 2010, Our first peace walk was held on the West Haven Board Walk where we placed six IWagePeace Walk signs along the walk reminding us that War and the trials of War, while sometimes inevitable and sometimes necessary, do not end without the active involvement of peacemakers. Three of our signs told about historic peacemakers, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian, one shared verses from Jewish, Muslim, and Christian scriptures, one invited silent prayer, and the last celebrated the peacemaking work of The Combatants For Peace.
All children and families were invited to join the IWagePeace Treasure Hunt and many won a prize by answering the twelve questions found in the Treasure hunt booklet whose answers were found along the walk. The walk journeyed through a Veterans Walk of Honor, a sacred garden planted through the generosity of living veterans, their families, and their friends, to remember their loved ones who did not come home. We took a "Walk of Silence" through these memorials to our fallen soldiers honoring them with our thoughts and prayers. After the walk we gathered again at the Grove Park pavilion to hear a few short speeches by some of our attending leaders of faith, and a proclamation from the office of the Mayor of West Haven, John Picard. Afterwards we enjoyed live music and dancing with the Afro-Semitic Experience.
Video Courtesy of Eli Williamson Jones
In early October of 2011 IWagePeace held their second annual walk where over 300 Muslims, Jews, Christians, and others publically displayed their commitment to one another and shared their common love for the city of Jerusalem. IWagePeace Inc. prepared twelve sandwich signs and six billboard sized murals telling the story of Jerusalem as loved and experienced by all three faith traditions. Information on the signs was written by IWagePeace volunteer staff after holding private interviews with local religious leaders who explained in their own words why Jerusalem was sacred for their faith communities. The final sign was a map of present day Jerusalem showing the location of the holy sites, the security wall, settlements, and camps, with a prayer of Lamentation for the suffering experienced by all sides in the conflict. The Mayor of West Haven, John Piccard opened the walk by thanking everyone for their work for peace. Bruce Barrett, founder of IWagePeace asked those present to "Look around you, this is your family and this is your story." Then, walking into the setting sun attendees passed through history, reading the IWagePeace signs telling of David and Solomon's Temple, the Roman conquest, Herod, Jesus, the destruction and desecration of the city, and the Prophet Mohammed's interfaith journey to the Temple Mount. "
The walk made public our joys , fears , suffering, and hopes for peace while experiencing our common spiritual calling to learn from each other," says Barrett. " With giant murals and poetic words, we learned how precious for Muslims is the Dome of the Rock , how sacred for Jews is the Temple Mount and Western Wall , how fearful are Christians for the loss of their holy sites, how suffering has no bounds and how empathy should have no bias. Together we walked, prayed and drew a shade closer to protecting one another."At the end of the walk, Rabbi Dana Bogatz, Imam Kashif Abdul Karim, and Reverend Gary Witte shared their thoughts of hope and understanding. The group celebrated with live music from the Afro Semitic Experience. IWagePeace Inc. organized and paid for the entire event with volunteer labor and cash donations from our members.
Mayor John DeStefano opened the 2012 walk, with speeches by Dr. James Jones, president of Masjid Al-Islam in New Haven; Rabbi James Ponet, Chief Rabbi of the Joseph Slifka Center for Community life at Yale; and Reverend John Gage, senior pastor of United Church on the Green. The walk was featured in the New Haven Register. Joining us on the walk from Israel and Palestine were members of the non-violent action group Combatants For Peace as well as a dozen youth from both East and West Jerusalem representing the interfaith peace and justice program Kids4Peace .Pilgrims on the walk experienced camaraderie, sang songs of faith, justice, and healing, creating a public and visible sign that peace is possible, that there are partners for peace, that dialogue is not enough, and that the active engagement of our entire community is required. Among last year's twenty-four sponsors were The Connecticut Coalition of Mosques, United Church on the Green, and COngregation Mishkan Israel. Three times during the walk, all four hundred attending Muslims, Jews, Christians, and others recited a pledge, proclaiming that "in so much as it is in our power, we will defend and protect the rights of all Christians, Muslims, Jews and members of all faith and cultural identities, here in the United States, in Israel, in Palestine, and throughout the world." This unifying pledge spoken out loud in public is central to our message for Waging Peace.
Members of Combatants for Peace from Israel and Palestine, former enemy combatants who are now partners for peace and justice and thirty-five Connecticut faith communities joined forces for the 4th annual IWagePeace Walk under the mantra “We do not need to agree on everything to work together for justice and peace.” Remembering the words of Rabbi Hillel, “If we are only for ourselves, what good are we?” we promised to defend and protect one another in the United States and abroad. It is our roll as spiritual leaders to show ourselves publicly, leading one another in a ministry of reconciliation and healing, seeking justice and peace not for our own clan or tribe, but for all people on all sides of a conflict: a light unto the nations.
Beginning on the Green, the walk opened with a "Calling of the Drums" performed by the Nation Drill Squad & Drum Corp of New Haven followed by opening words from members of the Combatants for Peace. We enjoyed a two mile walk together through downtown New Haven. Three times we paused to publicly pledge to advocate for all people of all faiths and traditions: first at the Green before Rabbi Joshua Ratner of Congregation Kol Ami of Cheshire, second before Father David Cobb at Christ Church New Haven and third before Imam Hafiz Hannan at Masjid Al Islam, New Haven. The walk was broadcast live by WPKN 89.5 LISTEN.
Yale University provided us with a free shuttle back to the Green.
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