Communication Bridges Differences at the 9th Annual Interfaith Solidarity March

Communication Bridges Differences at the 9th Annual Interfaith Solidarity March

Los Angeles, Calif., June 19, 2024 — In a world often fragmented by religious and cultural differences, the 9th Annual Interfaith Solidarity March in Los Angeles stands out as a beacon of unity and hope. This year’s march, held on June 2, 2024, gathered an impressive array of participants from various faiths, including Muslims, Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists, Scientologists, and individuals of no particular faith. Their collective mission was clear: to affirm their commitment to interfaith dialogue and promote peace and understanding among diverse communities.

A Vision of Unity

The driving force behind the march and the broader movement is Dr. Arik Greenberg, founder and president of the Institute for Religious Tolerance, Peace and Justice (IRTPJ). Dr. Greenberg’s vision is rooted in the belief that religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue are essential pathways to world peace. The IRTPJ sponsors this annual event, which has grown to become a significant fixture in Los Angeles’ cultural and social calendar.

Rev. Olivia McDuff of the Church of Scientology International served as the master of ceremonies, highlighting Dr. Greenberg’s steadfast commitment to fostering an inclusive interfaith community. She praised his efforts to bring people together in the name of freedom of worship and belief while rejecting any attempts to sow discord and hatred among different faiths.

Marching Together for a Common Cause

The march began with a rally at St. Basil Catholic Church, where participants gathered before embarking on their journey down Wilshire Blvd. The atmosphere was charged with a sense of purpose and camaraderie. Mohammed Khan, an IRTPJ board member, delivered a powerful challenge to the marchers: “Step outside your comfort zone.” He encouraged participants to walk with someone they didn’t already know, particularly someone from a different faith, and to engage in meaningful conversations about their concerns and values. This, he argued, is the best way to break down walls and foster understanding.

Unlike other marches that often feature protest slogans, this event focused on unity. A megaphone-wielding leader led the crowd in chants that emphasized the importance of working together for peace. The message was clear: unity, not division, is the way forward for all Angelenos.

The Power of Interfaith Support

One of the most poignant moments of the event came when Aziza Hasan, Executive Director of New Ground: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change, shared her personal story. She recounted the intense backlash she and other Muslims faced after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “As Americans and Muslims, we were upset and grieving along with everyone else,” she said. However, because of their faith and ethnicity, Muslims became targets of suspicion and hostility.

Hasan described how her interfaith colleagues rallied around her and other Muslims, forming a human chain to protect them. “They were there for us when it mattered,” she said, emphasizing the crucial role that interfaith support played in those difficult times. This experience reinforced her belief in the importance of the interfaith movement and the need for solidarity among diverse communities.

A Platform for Dialogue

The march concluded with a panel discussion moderated by Father Alexei Smith, Ecumenical and Interreligious Officer of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The discussion focused on the ongoing crisis in Gaza and Israel, a topic that often elicits strong emotions and differing opinions.

Fr. Smith explained why he prefers the term “understanding” over “tolerance.” He argued that tolerance implies merely putting up with someone or something, whereas true interfaith dialogue requires openness and a willingness to be nurtured by other faiths. “We’re certainly much beyond merely putting up with other religions,” he said. “We should allow ourselves to be open to other faiths. Allow them to nurture us as we nurture and encourage them.”

Although the panel did not reach a consensus on the issues discussed, Fr. Smith remained optimistic. “We don’t always agree. But we must not let our disagreements prevent us from working together for the greater good,” he said. This sentiment captures the essence of the Interfaith Solidarity March: the recognition that while differences exist, they should not hinder collective efforts toward peace and justice.

The Broader Impact

The Los Angeles Interfaith March for Peace and Justice coalition, the largest of its kind in the world, serves as a testament to the power of collective action. The IRTPJ, under Dr. Greenberg’s leadership, continues to spearhead initiatives that promote religious tolerance, interfaith dialogue, and education about the world’s religions.

The Church of Scientology, a staunch advocate for religious freedom, has played a significant role in supporting these efforts. For over 70 years, the Church has emphasized the importance of preserving religious liberty, recognizing it as a fundamental human right. Through its religious freedom blog and other initiatives, the Church aims to foster a better understanding of religious freedom and address issues affecting this freedom globally.

A Message for the Future

As the 9th Annual Interfaith Solidarity March demonstrated, the message of unity and understanding is more relevant today than ever before. In a world where conflicts often arise from intolerance and misunderstanding, events like this march offer a powerful reminder of what can be achieved when people come together with open hearts and minds.

The marchers in Los Angeles set an example for others to follow, showing that through dialogue and mutual respect, it is possible to bridge even the deepest divides. As Dr. Greenberg and his colleagues continue their work, they inspire hope for a future where peace and justice are within reach for all.

ScientologyEU Newsroom

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