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Monday, Oct 20, 2014

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peacewalk candles

Students and community members hold candles at the end of the Interfaith Peace Walk on Sept. 11

Photographer: Stephen Reiss

peacewalk kids

Kids holding signs before the Interfaith Peace Walk

Photographer: Stephen Reiss

peacewalk crowd

The crowd gathers at the Islamic Center at the end of the Interfaith Peace Walk

Photographer: Stephen Reiss

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Interfaith Peace Walk encourages peace and collaboration


On Sept. 11, 2001, when hijackers commandeered three commercial jets and flew them into the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon, confusion, suspicion and fear clouded the immediate aftermath. Even now, 12 years later, those feelings have not evaporated, but in many cases deepened and solidified into ideology.

The third annual Interfaith Peace Walk on Sept. 11, organized by United Campus Ministry (UCM) at Ohio University, called people of all races and faith traditions to reject the distrust and hatred and to instead extend the sentiment of "Peace be with you" to one another—and to the world.

The walk kicked off at the Church of the Good Shepherd, attracting a dense crowd of Athenians and campus community members.

Brad Modlin, a representative of the Church of the Good Shepherd, welcomed the assembled crowd and espoused the importance of wishing others peace when we don't know how to respond in the face of tragedy.

UCM campus minister Evan Young spoke about 9/11, which is the day, he said, "everything changed." Except, he said, everything didn't really change.

"However horrifying was the new prospect of violence visited upon Americans at home in the United States, it was only one more act of violence of person against person, nation against nation, of ideology against ideology, of faith against faith," Young said. "You're all here because you know that we're better than this. Better together. You know that the vision that we hold in common of a world where all people live in peace is worth more than just your word. It's worth your deeds, your sweat, your action."

Young urged people to make this day, 12 years after the terror attacks, the day that everything really did change. Young expressed the hope that this demonstration of peace would embody a less fearful and more hopeful vision of the world and the future.

The walkers then set off in pursuit of that goal. Many clutched paper personal statements: "I am a human; and I am here because all you need is love"; "I am a lover; and I am here because I am not a fighter."; and "I am an Afghan and I am here because we are fed up of war we want peace."

During its route, which encompassed many uptown centers of worship, the group made stops at Hillel at Ohio University to hear a recitation of the Mourner's Kaddish and at Christ Lutheran Church, where it was serenaded by members of the congregation singing "Let There Be Peace on Earth."

The walk and the togetherness it promoted were projects of the Better Together Campaign, an effort taking place on college campuses to build community across faith lines through shared experiences and community service.

Javad Anjum, an Ohio University doctoral student and a facilitator of the Better Together Campaign at UCM, identified the representation of unity and diversity as the most striking success of the walk.

"Our common goal is to have communal harmony, have a peaceful community, and build a community," Anjum said.

The walk culminated at the Islamic Center, where walkers and members of the union participated in a candlelight vigil and a shared song.

Muslim Student Association representative Omar Kurdi, a third-year student, brought to the forefront the shared goal of rejecting violence and promoting peace. He called for a world in which violence and hatred are replaced with peace and love.

"We are gathered here today as one people," Kurdi said. "We are celebrating peace. We are celebrating community. It is our duty as fellow human beings to love each other."