Philadelphia Interfaith Peace Walk Vision for America 2020
“I can’t breathe.” In Genesis, humankind is endowed with a living soul when God inspires Adam with the nismat hayyim, the “breath of life.” It is then that Adam is truly b’tselem elohim, created in the image of God. Against that fundamental act of creation, we must reckon with the murder of George Floyd, robbed of breath, of dignity, of life, by a police officer, and so we must reckon with the destructive and poisonous force of systemic racism embodied by his murder. Racism refuses to see the divine image in African-Americans and others; it obscures the divine in the racist and the world.
We in the Philadelphia Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation reject this hatred in all its insidious forms. We must call it out when we see it and hear it, in our home and on our way, not just in cruel words or individual acts but in oppressive institutions and systems that hurt and kill so many of our brothers and sisters and diminish all of us. We must search for it in our own hearts and root it out.
For nearly two decades, the Peace Walk has offered a different vision of the world. In the words of the Scripture of one of the many faith traditions we honor: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love comes from God and everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God.” (1 John 4:7). It is a vision grounded in love, dialogue, reflection, and action open to ALL, of any faith tradition or no faith tradition. By building the personal relationships that make even the hardest discussions possible, by reaching out to religious, racial, and ethnic groups suffering intolerance and persecution, by the Interfaith Peace Walk we take every year and the walks we walk every day fighting for justice, we seek to transform our world.
But a person whose breath has been squeezed out of him by racism and its enablers cannot walk and cannot speak.
Racism and hate seek to silence us even when they do not kill us, leading to a form of social death. The gaping absences and fearful silences that racism causes rend our hearts, and that pain spurs us to keep working for justice. We begin by saying the names that racism tries to erase: Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, Kendra James, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Nina Pop, Tony McDade, George Floyd, and so many more.
We pledge ourselves to stand against racism and the other pathologies that make it possible. We pledge ourselves to work actively for a day where we can all breathe freely and where we can all enjoy the rights and fully meaningful lives that we were created for. As the Holy Qur’an commands us, “Be ever steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity; and never let hatred of anyone lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is closest to being God-conscious.”(5:8). Then, and only then, shall the words of the Prophet Amos be fulfilled, as “justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream” (5:24).
Then, and only then, will we collectively reach the Peace that we Walk for.