Interfaith Peace Walk: Spreading the love step by step through Athens

UCM students lead the crowd at the Interfaith Peace Walk. PHOTO CREDIT: Samantha Nelson

UCM students lead the crowd at the Interfaith Peace Walk. PHOTO CREDIT: Samantha Nelson

At every Sunday service, the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd begins with sharing offerings of camaraderie with the simple exchange of “peace be with you,” and the response “and also with you.” Reverend Evan Young shared this message with the group of students and religious affiliations that gathered at the steps of the church on Wednesday evening in the kick-off of the third annual Interfaith Peace Walk.

The walk first took place on the tenth anniversary of Sept. 11 and since then has become a yearly event.

It is planned by the United Campus Ministry, or UCM, as a Better Together movement, which is an organization that brings students with or without faith together to work for a world with a unified and peaceful structure. Senior Krista Mobley is an intern at UCM and Better Together and also the co-president for OU’s STAND Against Genocide organization. She has been volunteering for UCM since her freshman year and has helped with the walk all three years.

“The walk acknowledges an interfaith dialogue that bonds together different faiths in a message of peace,” Mobley said.

Members of STAND were also encouraged to attend the walk as their group often focuses on conflicts that arise from differences in religion.

Melissa Wales, the director of UCM, described the walk as a way of “building bridges” between the faiths and the community. They use the walk to commemorate the lives lost as well as an occasion to celebrate working for peace and a brighter future.

Participators in the walk were welcomed to identify their reasons for joining the cause with posters that said who they were and why they were there.

A family proudly holds up their signs at the Interfaith Peace Walk, to show why they participated. PHOTO CREDIT: Lauren Prescott

A family proudly holds up their signs at the Interfaith Peace Walk, to show why they participated. PHOTO CREDIT: Lauren Prescott

The walk traveled from the church through College Green and uptown where it eventually came to the first stop at the Hillel Center for

Jewish Life. It was there that the Mourner’s Kaddish was recited for the gathering crowd.

The walk then made its way down Mill Street where it came to a pause when members of the Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church greeted the crowd with a song. The final stop was at the Muslim Student Association, where an Islamic prayer was sung and Reverend Young gave a final speech advocating peace.

A candlelight vigil was then initiated by the lighting of a single candle that was then spread from each candle to another with offerings of “peace be with you.” Once all the candles were lit, the crowd shared a moment of silence.

“We can do better,” Reverend Young said after the silence ended.

The crowd then joined in singing the traditional hymn “There is More Love.” The end of the walk was celebrated with food provided at the center for those who wished to partake.

The Interfaith Peace Walk brought together a diverse group of people with various religious backgrounds. It provided the opportunity to share themes of love and peace and send a message to the Athens community.

Movements like these aim to generate and spread peace throughout the world in order to combat the hatred and violence that still exist. Another year will go by before the next peace walk will take place, and in that time, those who wish to put an end to the violence must continue spreading this message of peace every day.

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