Interfaith walk has clergy pondering next steps

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Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, center, literally gave the coat off of his back to Rabbi Bruce Lustig. Also pictured is Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, Photos by Justin Katz
Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, center, literally gave the coat off of his back to Rabbi Bruce Lustig. Also pictured is Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde.
Photos by Justin Katz

Despite the threat of rain and strong winds, 150 Jews, Christians and Muslims on Sunday walked from one Washington house of worship to another, with buttons that said “Faith over fear” pinned to their coats.

“There is another group of Americans who are hurting,” Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, of the Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, said from the steps of a mosque. “People who live in Appalachia, we knew they were hungry and they were angry, and we did nothing to help them.”


Ehsan Baig, right, of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, chants the call to prayer in front of Washington Hebrew Congregation as Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde listens.
Ehsan Baig, right, of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, chants the call to prayer in front of Washington Hebrew Congregation as Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde listens.

Those other Americans overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump for president. And the two-hour interfaith walk, which stopped at three Washington houses of worship, reflected two realities emerging from Trump’s election.

Like other recent interfaith efforts, the walk demonstrated a determination of good will and unity in the face of Trump’s threats to minorities and opponents during the campaign. During the election period, hate crimes rose. There were more than 1,000 incidents between Nov. 9 and Dec. 12; the Southern Poverty Law Center has reported 1,094 incidents.

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But there is a growing realization that the two Americas revealed in the election do not know each other and that urban proponents of a multicultural and multifaith nation must leave their comfortable bubble to meet — and help — the other side.

“There are riskier conversations that we all need to have,” said Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde, of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington. “It’s not enough to be friends with the people” who agree with us.


The walk began at Washington Hebrew Congregation in Cathedral Heights, stopped at Washington National Cathedral and ended at the Islamic Center of Washington in Kalorama Heights.

Rabbi Bruce Lustig of Washington Hebrew Congregation led the walk. He said he is urging his congregants to “talk to people who believe differently. But it doesn’t mean it has to turn violent, and it doesn’t mean it has to be hateful.”

“This is affirming who we are,” Budde said. “We’re able to walk together because we’re friends. We come from different traditions, but what unites us is much stronger than what divides us. That’s our message to American people,” she said.

During the walk, prayers and scripture readings from the three faiths were recited at the synagogue, cathedral and Islamic center.

Muslim youth choir BEAT performs at the Islamic Center in Washington.
Muslim youth choir BEAT performs at the Islamic Center in Washington.

The All Dulles Area Muslim Society’s 13-member youth choir, performed Islamic compositions, as well as “America the Beautiful” at the cathedral and “This Land is Your Land” at the Islamic center, in which the crowd joined in singing.

Also at the Islamic center, Daniel Lebbin, a Washington Hebrew Congregation member, blew the shofar.
Participants said the walk was a way to send a message of unity by doing more than just talking.

Rizwan Jaka, chair of the board at the ADAMS Center, a Muslim congregation in Sterling, said: “We must reach out to those who have questions [and those] that disagree with us. That’s where bridges are built.”

Jaka said the ADAMS Center has been doing this through its decade-long partnership with Washington Hebrew Congregation.

Michael Curry (left), presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States, listens as Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, makes his remarks.
Michael Curry (left), presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States, listens as Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, makes his remarks.

Other clergy who participated were Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States; the Rev. Delman Coates of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton; Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington; and Rabbi Michael Namath, of the Union for Reform Judaism.

“We’re coming together to pray and sing, and that is the first step,” said Budde.

She said she is unsure of what the next step will be, but that “difficult conversations” with those who do not share the same beliefs must be a part of it.

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