At the same time, misguided by powerful groups, passions and beliefs, many of our local, state and federal officials dismiss the concerted pleas of the great majority who express their desire for peaceful diplomacy, control over assault weapons and reconciliation and healing of the massive grief that has been loosed by this violence.
In the face of such powerful forces, is it not all too easy to succumb to despair, to a helplessness that begets inaction? Drawing on the deep spiritual values and teachings of the world's major religions, the Philadelphia Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation (the Peace Walk) offers a different and hopeful way.
While not overlooking how religious traditions themselves share complicity in violence and warfare, we walk together from mosques to churches to synagogues, praying, singing, dancing and talking along the way. In doing so, the Peace Walk enacts the highest values of our faiths - that we are caring communities and refuse to be enemies to each other.
Gandhi famously said that violence is "an absence of imagination." The Peace Walk, while claiming no panacea for our social and spiritual ills, does insist that we can with creativity and imagination cross over the boundaries of suspicion, blame and grief that contribute to cycles of injustice and violence.
Indeed, it is within the deep spirituality of the world's great religions, which are an integral part of the history of humankind, that reconciliation and healing can burst forth. Our desire to effect positive change in our community is underscored by the co-sponsorship of this year's Peace Walk by the Northwest Interfaith Movement, an alliance of 53 congregations of various faiths that works to build a more just and sensitive community through advocacy and service.
On the Peace Walk, we walk, in our own small way, in the footsteps of Gandhi and those men and women who followed Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., walking rather than riding the bus in Birmingham, Ala., refusing the inhumane violence of segregation.
WHEN WE WALK, we chart our path with an eye toward the truth and reconciliation commissions in South Africa, which showed the world that even the great historical violence of apartheid could be healed by dealing with it honestly.
The Peace Walk provides us with the chance to have conversations with those we might not ordinarily meet, to visit sacred spaces within our community and within ourselves that we might not otherwise visit.
It is a gateway to the other opportunities our group offers, among them volunteer work and in-depth dialogues about the history and impact of violence existing in our religious, political and ethnic communities.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, we've seen in Philadelphia and many parts of the world a movement to counter revenge and violence through creative initiatives for reconciliation, healing and peace. It has flourished in movements like the Peace Walk, where people of many faiths can embrace each other as caring human beings.
We invite you to walk with us. *
Vic Compher and Steve Newman are members of the organizing team of the Philadelphia Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation. More info about the fourth annual walk on June 3, 1-5 p.m., and other activities of this interfaith movement are available at interfaithpeacewalk.org.