Unification News for May 2004

WFWP Bridge Crossing Ceremony in Los Angeles

by Rev. Godwin D'Silva

Taking to heart the recent emphasis by True Parents on the role of Women in World Peace, the Los Angeles Womens Federation for World Peace held a Bridge Crossing with the Theme "Women as Peacemakers: Building Bridges for Peace In the Middle East."

Our sisters in Los Angeles headed by Sheri Rueter and Kimyo Anceney have always been in the forefront of the bridge crossing ceremonies held throughout the nation. The Women’s Federation here have built quite a large foundation with the Los Angeles community when they initiated the Inter-racial Sisterhood Project several years ago.

The ISP (Inter-racial Sisterhood Project) was initiated 1996 and since then we have held many such bridge crossings. These bridge crossings brought women from different races to cross the racial lines. Several bridge crossings took place at High Schools and also between Native Americans and other races.

This time the bridge crossing brought distinguished women to become peacemakers. With the central theme of building bridges for peace in the Middle East, our women took the initiative to organize successful event. With the help of Norma Foster ( an Ambassador for Peace) we felt the need to bring women from the three Abrahamic Faiths – Judaism, Chrisitianity and Islam to cross the bridge. And the response was overwhelming.

On Sunday, May 2nd in a packed hall ( SGI – Friendship center) of 250 people, women from Jewish, Christian and Islamic faith came to participate in a memorable bridge crossing. The event itself was well thought out and implemented. With the Bridge of Peace constructed and ready on the stage, the event was packed with great entertainment and music.

As the MC, Mrs. Sheri Rueter invited four ladies representing different faiths to come up and give the invocation. They were Dr. Georgianna Sanchez, Native American Studies at California State University, Long Beach; Mrs. Athia Carrim, Islamic Center, South Bay-LA; Mrs. Ariella Shira Lewis, Gather the Women; and Ms Victoria Wilson Darrah; African Children's Network.

This was followed by songs from a Muslim School called the New Horizons. They sang beautiful songs which was followed by a video on a school called "Yad Be Yad" . "Yad be Yad" which means " Hand in Hand" in Hebrew, is a school in Israel that has both Israeli and Arab students and staff. The medium of instruction is both Arabic and Hebrew.

The Video showed us the possibility of Jews and Arabs living together without any animosity. All the audience were moved by the video. Next, came Ms. Tahara Akmal Kariem. She is a journalist who works with the Muslim Journal – a renowned weekly that featured the Middle East Peace initiatives prominently in its front pages for several issues.

Ms. Kariem talked about her amazing experiences in Israel and Gaza, while visiting with the Middle East Peace Pilgrimages.

Norma Foster then took the stage to talk about the WMEPI (Women’s Middle East Peace Initiative) declaration. She also displayed a Los Angeles City –Resolution commending the Women’s Federation for World Peace. The Resolution certificate was the biggest anyone had ever seen. All five of the Los Angeles City Council Members signed off on it.

Next came the highlight of the afternoon; The Bridge Crossing itself. Needless to say, it was the most moving ceremony ever in Los Angeles. There seemed to be a very high spirit as Jewish Women paired with Muslims, and Muslim women with Christian women and other combinations and permutations presented a host of contrast and color to the event.

As each sister crossed the bridge, they walked off stage to the back of the hall to sign the WMEPI declaration paper. It took over 40 minutes to have all women cross the Bridge of Peace.

Meanwhile as the event came to a close, The Sadoc Christian singers sang their now famous hit, "Peace, Shalom, Salaamalaikum" to an appreciative audience.

The final song, "Let there be peace on Earth" was very moving with everyone holding in one big circle hands and singing along together.

The final part of the event was the raffle draw. Proceeds of the draw went to the "Yad be Yad" school in Jerusalem.

Overall, it was a great event and encouraged several women to be part of the Middle East Peace Initiative. Many women expressed interest in visiting the Middle East for the upcoming events.

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