On September 11, 2010, I stood at the Sacramento Cathedral steps, the setting sun illuminating the church spires in pink, as white doves were released over the crowd. A soft song of "Let There Be Peace On Earth" was sung, as one by one, people placed roses on the Quran in blessing. Religious leaders from the Bahia, Jewish, Muslim, Catholic, Spiritual Life, Hindu, and different Christian religions read passages of peace from the Quran. The crowd was just as diverse, coming together in the understanding if we're to have peace on earth then prejudice must come to an end.
The ceremony was an attempt to heal the hurt caused by a man in Florida who called for the Quran to be burned. As I looked around the crowd, who stood together in a vision of a world united by differences instead of disgraced by ignorance, I was surrounded by hope.
When I made my list of 101 Dreams Come True, I wrote that I wanted to bring all faiths together in an open discussion for understanding. At the time, I wasn't part of organized religion but had my own spirituality that I hold to this day (though I'm now part of a Franciscan church). I didn't have contact with any Muslims, so my only knowledge of the Islamic faith was what I'd seen on newscasts, movies, and what I'd heard from other people. If I'm completely honest, I had prejudice towards many organized faiths (Catholicism being one) that I hadn't recognized.
But as I've searched for ways to make this dream come true of bringing faiths together, I've become part of the Interfaith Service Bureau of Sacramento that's opened my heart and mind to many religions: I've shared Ramadan in my Catholic Church; gone to Iftar at the SALAM center; prayed with Muslims in a mosque; taken a class on Monotheism led by Christian leaders, Rabbis, and an Imam; meditated with Unitarians; done Yoga with Hindus; walked through Potala Palace with a Buddhist monk; attended Non-denominational services; and have become an active member of my church. As I've studied faith, I've realized that all religions are based on the same ideals: a higher power; love; treating others better than we expect to be treated; and that humans so often get it wrong and need a little help along the way.
I have to wonder, if we're similar in our basic beliefs then why do we have a bloody history when it comes to religion? The only answer I have is that ideas are formed in ignorance and then passed along. It's only in learning and sharing with one another that we can end this horrible history of hate. For when people come together in peace, no matter what the faith, it brings forth love, understanding, and friendship. And isn't that what life is all about?
Photos on this blog were done by James Tennery. To see more photos of the event go to his gallery.