In a world fraught with violence, is it too bold to say that peace is possible between people of different religious, national and ethnic backgrounds? One group of religious leaders and peace activists does not think so.
On Oct. 7, 16 leaders adhering to Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim traditions and no tradition in particular, will lead a silent peace walk around Central Park in New York City to show that peace is possible between Israelis, Palestinians, Muslims and Jews in the Middle East.
The concept of a silent peace walk is not a new one. It follows in the tradition of peace activists like Gandhi and revered Buddhist monk Maha Ghosananda. For several years, thousands of Israelis and Palestinians have walked all over Israel and the Palestinian territories to demand a peaceful solution to the crisis in the Middle East. Dr. Stephen Fulder, one of the leaders of the New York Peace Walk, is the founder of Middleway, a Palestinian-Israeli peace organization that has been organizing large silent peace walks for several years. The New York Peace Walk will be the first such large silent peace walk in the United States.
“With an increasingly tense situation in the Middle East and so much attention focusing on what divides us, it’s seems fitting to have this peace walk in a place where people of all backgrounds live side by side in harmony,” Gal Romano, an Israeli organizing committee volunteer for the Peace Walk, said. “These silent walks demonstrate the reality of respect and co-existence. The Peace Walk will be an expression and reminder of the goodwill among us, and walking proof that peace is very much possible.”
Are you interested in joining the silent peace walk on Sunday? Click here to register and for more details about the peace walk.
HuffPost Religion reached out to the leaders of the New York Peace Walk and asked them to share what motivates them to work for peace. Read their reflections below:
The Believers are but a single Brotherhood: So make peace and reconciliation between your two (contending) brothers; and fear Allah, that ye may receive Mercy. (Al-Hujuraat: 10, Qur'an) Daisy Khan is the executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, a non-profit dedicated to building Muslim identity and dialogue between the Muslim community and general public.
The New York Peace Walk follows the spirit of non-violence sacred to many traditions and central to the teachings of the Buddha. The Dhammapada, among the most beloved of all Buddhist scripture states: Hatred never ceases by hatred But by love alone is healed This is the ancient and eternal law For 15 years, my friend and teacher Maha Ghosananda, the Gandhi of Cambodia, led peace walks through war zones and jungle paths, guiding refugees back to their villages. In the 1970s and 80s the genocide of the Khmer Rouge had burned temples and killed millions of Cambodians, including almost all who were educated and all 19 members of Maha Ghosananda’s family. One of the few surviving monks, Ghosananda built temples for the hundreds of thousands living in the refugee camps. When the war slowed down and it became possible to return, he told the surviving villagers that they could not ride buses or trucks back to their homes. They needed to walk, chanting prayers of loving kindness with each step, to step by step reclaim their land, their hearts, their country. While they walked -- in long lines, ringing bells and singing -- frightened widows would come out of hiding places in the bushes and soldiers from both sides would ay their guns at Ghosananda’s feet and weep. Nominated for the Nobel Prize, founder of 30 temples, respected elder of the peace process at the U.N., meditator and scholar of 15 languages, he mostly lived in the jungles, and spent his years guiding others, walking in peace, chanting over and over the great truth, “Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed.” He showed everyone he met that the force of love could overcome the power of hate. Jack Kornfield is a teacher in the vipassana movement of American Theravada Buddhism.
Only Love. Only the holder the flag fits into, and wind. No flag. -- Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks) My father, Saul Mendlovitz, used to bring his children to conferences where he convened people from every continent except Antarctica, to create models of how a world without war could be created. Gernady Gerasimov, Gorbacev's press secretary would come, even before the iron curtain fell, and we were all friends when we went to see the movie 2001 together. I remember thinking that this cooperation was possible because people were really listening to each other. The silence of the Peacewalk will invite us to listen more deeply to our hearts, to wisdom, to each other, to the earth. How is it they live for eons in such harmony - the billions of stars - when most men can barely go a minute without declaring war in their mind against someone they know… ….How can we live in harmony? First we need to know we are all madly in love with the same God. -~ St. Thomas Aquinas Rumi was a Sufi Muslim who wrote about Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Mary and the Prophet with respect and joy, recognizing the community of conscious beings, the community of open hearts. Not Christian, or Jew, or Muslim, not Hindu, Buddhist, Sufi or Zen. Not any religion... ... I belong to the beloved, have seen the two worlds as one and that one call to and know as first, last, outer, inner, only that breath breathing human being. -- Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks) The walking of the Peace Walk, amongst many names, many religions, many paths, will invite us to feel the ground -- our collective home, to experience the air in our lungs -- air which we all breathe, and to viscerally experience the inherent Peace that is already here. Jessica Dibb is the founder and director of Inspiration, an ecumenical school that promotes individual and societal evolution and spiritual awareness.
We are walking in silence because we are honoring and witnessing something beyond all our words. It is a love for one another and a sense of the sacred presence of immeasurable value in every life; it is a peace that is beyond our capacity to express or fully understand. It is a vision that all people can live honoring and appreciating that peace. It is a call with our hearts for all people of all faiths, beliefs, races, religions, ideologies, and nations to affirm our shared aspirations to live in peace. It is a call to you to join us. The pursuit of a peaceful world cannot just be done in private, although it must begin in the most private part of our being, the inner heart. It requires certain principles upon which to base action. Desire for others the best one desires for oneself. Feel their joy and sorrow as part of one's own life experience. Bring this intention into action and inner peace will result. Pursue dominance over others and the result will be inner turmoil. The same principles apply to nations. Pursue dominance and internal strife will result. Pursue success for other nations and one's own nation will also thrive. Compare the success of the Marshall Plan with the result of the reparations imposed after WWI. One was based on generosity and wisdom and resulted in greater stability and partnerships and the other resulted in suffering and war. Our call to ourselves must be to treat others as we wish to be treated and our call to our nations must be to treat other nations as we wish to be treated. The same call goes out to the world's religions. This new attitude will result in greater cooperation in protecting the shared environment, such as the oceans and the climate, advancing human rights, pursuing peace, the abolition of nuclear weapons, respect for the rule of law, and appreciation of the wide variety of cultures in our increasingly interconnected global society. This new attitude will result in a deeper sense of the power of compassion to awaken the heart, bring greater courage and richness to daily life, and make every day a meaningful wondrous experience. This new attitude is based on universal ancient wisdom. It becomes new when we bring it into the opportunity of this moment. I will be reflecting on a short suggestion by the Sufi Saint Bawa Muhaiyaddeen: Separate from yourself that which separates you from you fellow human beings. The same qualities that separate us from one another separate us from God and the same qualities that bring us together as human beings bring us together with God. Anger, falsehood, jealousy, pride, selfishness, and haste separate us. Love, compassion, tolerance, peacefulness, and justice bring us together. This information is not new but we must all learn to walk the talk. Jonathan Granoff is an American lawyer and currently the president of the Global Security Institute.
The prophet Isaiah proclaimed, "My house shall be a house of prayer for all people." Whether religious or irreligious, human beings eventually encounter the opportunity to welcome the unknown "other" for the sake of becoming more human. Fear and ignorance can only dissolve in the direct experience of One Another in this "house" of vast heart, abode of the deepest human ideals. As what unites becomes more important than what divides, these times invite us to the sacred experience of Unity, universal beyond geography and cultural uniqueness. Wherever in the world he visited, Murshid Samuel Lewis, the first American Sufi master lived what he called his Peace Plan, to "Eat, Dance, and Pray with People." Through sincere interest in those he met, his own heart capacity increased in compassion and in scope for service. Toward the end of his life, as young people arrived to study with him they sometimes found it unnerving to be listened to "as though it might be God speaking." This walk invites learning to be with each other, like that. The planet has been preparing for this kind of walking for a long time. As far back as the 13th century, mystic Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi invites us, "Come, come, whoever you are." Let's go, together! Murshida Khadija has been studying Sufi practice for 36 years, and serves as senior teacher and interfaith minister in the Sufi Ruhaniat International.
A traditional Buddhist text, the Honeyball sutta, describes the source of quarrels, fights, conflict and violence. It is because of underlying tendencies to wanting things to be a certain way, to holding on to views, to not seeing things as they are, to being full of ourselves. And how are these tendencies dealt with? By not encouraging stories, narratives and chains of thinking that separate us from others and the world. In other words, we ourselves have to take responsibility for the kinds of reactivity, fears, anger, and labeling of 'the other' that leads to conflict. If conflict arises from tendencies, we need to do something about them, to purify them. This is not so easy. An example might be the Middle East conflict, which has been running for 100 years despite numerous attempts at solving it, despite good-hearted and wise peacemakers on both sides, despite the fact that both peoples already share the land, and an Abrahamic tradition, and despite the fact that peace ('Shalom') is the most common word in the region. There is an old Jewish story of students who asked their rabbi, "Rabbi, there is so much conflict in the world. How can it be solved?" The rabbi said: "There is a miraculous way and an ordinary way." The students answered, "So we suppose the ordinary way is people sitting down together and negotiating and discussing their differences." "No!" The rabbi answered: "That is the miraculous way!" So we have to ask ourselves: Are we ready to invest in solving conflict not maintaining it? Are we ready to purify our inner life so that when we are challenged, there is less reactivity, anger, automatic responses? Are we ready to constantly see that reality itself is inherently peaceful and harmonious, it just needs to be noticed. Are we ready to be mindful and aware so that we can put ourselves in the shoes of the other, and notice their pain and the pain of conflict when it arises, with a determination to end it. And are we ready to spread friendliness, and compassion to all whom we come across in our daily life? Stephen Fulder is a Buddhist practitioner based in Israel who has long been exploring the connection between dharma and Jewish teachings.
Interested in chatting about how to create peace in the world with the peace walk founders? Join HuffPost Religion on Twitter on Friday Oct. 5th from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET for a #peacechat.