This coming Sunday, September 11th, I am once again honored to be the MC for the annual Unity Walk in Washington, DC. It’s an event that brings together people of many faith traditions to give public witness that we honor, respect and appreciate each other’s faith and religious heritage. It is intended to foster greater collaboration for peace, justice, and development.
It is especially important this year, because it falls on the 10th anniversary of 9-11. We expect a large number of walkers...as many as 2,000.
The walk is indeed a faith journey. It begins at the synagogue of the Washington Hebrew Congregation with a Muslim call to prayer, a welcome by the leading rabbi (Bruce Lustig, a leading local interfaith leader), special remarks by a Muslim and by Bishop Barry Knestau, an auxiliary bishop Washington archdiocese.
Then, folks walk down Massachusetts Ave., where there are a wide array of houses of worship. Examples include: the National Sikh Gurdwara, Annunciation Catholic Church, Community of Christ Church, St. Nicholas Cathedral (Orthodox), Soka Gakkai Buddhist Temple, the Vatican Embassy, Washington National Cathedral (Episcopal) and the Islamic Center of Washington.
We conclude the walk at the statue of the Hindu saint, Mahatma Gandhi.
Fittingly, we will be joined by Arun Ghandi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and there will be a formal greeting (from afar) by Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.
By coming together in this way, we say emphatically that we cannot demonize other religions, nor impute to an entire group the actions of a handful. It’s an important way to refute the venomous Islamophobia that has infected parts of this country (with the help of right-wing funding, a fact recently brought to light by the Center for American Progress).
I have always been especially glad that the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and the Vatican Embassy participate in this. In fact, the Unity Walk is the one place where I met Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the former Vatican ambassador to the United States, recently deceased. He was offering cookies to walkers! Now, that’s a great image for our church, and an archbishop!