Walking the Walk™ Reflections
Hear from participants, student leaders, religious leaders, mentors, parents, and more!
Arisha Syed Sharing WOW Moments at the 2016 End-of-Year Celebration
This past year I’ve had the pleasure of participating in the Walking the Walk program for a second year- this time as a Student Group Leader. Throughout this year, I’ve continued to gain rich, valuable knowledge on various faiths- Christian, Bahá'í, Jewish, Quaker and Muslim faiths to name a few.
There have been many “Wow” moments brought to us by our incredibly intelligent and curious group, but one that especially made an impression to me is the MLK Day session at the Islamic Society of Chester County.
Now please don’t get me wrong- I didn’t choose this one because my congregation hosted it, or because there was an insanely good potluck lunch. I chose this because of the sense of camaraderie I felt as we all humbly sat in a circle on the floor asking to pass the glazed carrots. It truly felt like a family gathering, and I was amazed with the amount of sharing and openness that was shown that day. Additionally, the potluck allowed us to embrace diversity through religious and cultural food. This inspired the idea for an interfaith cookbook, that’s in the works within our West Chester network. Although the day wasn’t all about food, our potluck brought our varying faiths together- we were brought together by food. When you think about it, that’s a powerful thing.
This year as a Student Group Leader, I got to experience Walking the Walk like never before. I looked at each session with a different point of view- I realized that this next generation of Walkers are the leaders of the future. With that being said, the future seems to be in good hands.
Now I’d just like to take a moment to call Margie up here please.
At this point, I’m sure we all know that Margie is sadly leaving the Interfaith Center. As a group I think it’s safe to say that we wish you all the best in everything you do, and know you’ll continue to make a change.
So on behalf of the West Chester Network, I made you a little token of our appreciation: “We must open the doors of opportunity. But we must also equip our people to walk through those doors.” By President Lyndon B. Johnson
Dillon Hershey at the 2016 Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation
My name is Dillon Hershey and I’m an 18 year old senior at Science Leadership Academy. I joined Walking the Walk this year with my congregation, West Philadelphia Mennonite Fellowship.
When I moved here 8 years ago, I was in shock of how many things were going on. Cars whizzed by with music blasting from their open windows, ambulances and firetrucks raced down the block, kids rode on their bikes unafraid to be on the street with cars. It was a whole new world for me. I had previously lived in small towns where I was taught to stay off the street when a car was coming, and that loud music was annoying and disrespectful. Before I moved, my views on cities was that they were dirty and loud. I was right. Something that I didn’t take into account for was how diverse cities were. West Philadelphia was undoubtedly the most diverse place I have ever lived. Nobody cared about what everyone else thought. You could walk your dog with pajamas and messy hair and no one would blink an eye. You saw people with tattoos and piercings mingle with people dressed in their home country's traditional garb.
The city made me understand the importance of other cultures. The schools that I attended in Philadelphia all incorporated other cultures into their teaching curriculum. In 6th grade I learned Swahili, in 7th and 8th grade I learned Arabic and from 5th grade to 12th grade I learned Spanish. I realized how much I loved the ways of other cultures in an Arabic summer camp that I attended on a scholarship from my school. To be able to learn about a culture that I had no idea about a year before, was one of the best things that my parents had me do as a kid.
And now that I am in Walking the Walk as a teen I am still learning about other cultures and how I can change my thinking to include everyone. I think that it is so important that we are learning about other cultures and faiths because it forms who we are as we grow up and it pushes us to recognize that everyone is human. For us young people to make an impact and be a leader, we need to be able to recognize everyone’s faith and traditions as important and relevant. As I prepare to make my move to a new place, I hope to bring all that I've learned from the city with me… That it's perfectly okay to stand out because you are different from the next person. That you can learn so much in twelve weeks but yet yearn for more… That loud doesn't always mean disrespectful noise, but declaring your culture with pride.
NOTE: Dillon will be attending Goshen College in Fall 2016
Luke Risher Sharing WOW Moments at the 2016 End-of-Year Celebration
One of the most meaningful parts of the Walking the Walk year for me was the interfaith peace walk in the end of the year. It was beautiful to see so many different diverse people from all walks of life come together and be a public witness. I felt that this event put into action what we had been talking about all year long (being in interfaith, peace, joining through differences) and this experience only deepened the conversations we had and showed the public what we did and how. This action was a great way to sum up our year and come together.
Sahir Muhammad at the 2016 Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation
As Salaamu Alaikum (peace be upon you)
My name is Sahir Muhammad and I am part of Masjidullah. Walking the Walk has been a big part of my life for the past two years. Every other Sunday, I would get up and be ready to learn and experience something new. Sometimes I would be lazy and not want to go, but I powered through to gain some religious knowledge. Not only did I learn and experience things that I have not been exposed to before, but I have also made new friendships with people of many diverse backgrounds, which will hopefully last a lifetime. I was very ignorant and neglecting of learning about other people’s religion, because my mindset thought “who cares, as long as I follow my own religion, I’m good”. Walking the Walk changed that closed mindset and taught me to embrace all world religions. I even learned new things about my own faith when we would visit other masjids of Philadelphia. I believed I knew basically everything about my own religion, but many new things came to me. I did not know the cost of Hajj until coming to Walking the Walk. I learned that I do not know everything and that the pursuit for knowledge should never come to a halt. Strangely, my favorite part of Walking the Walk is visiting the different Jewish congregations but I don’t know why, I guess it is just the vibe. Something funny or entertaining was always happening there. The Rabbi was just so fun and young so she connected with us.
Before I go, I just have to say that everyone should have a pursuit for not just religious knowledge but all knowledge, and that we should ALL strive for unity and peace. One way to do this is to learn from and speak with those of backgrounds different from your own. I encourage you to learn more about Walking the Walk, maybe even participate, and help young people in it reach for success in any way you can.
Rachel Steinig at the 2016 Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation
Hello, my name is Rachel Steinig, and I’m a group member of the Philadelphia chapter of Walking the Walk. I am also on the planning committee of this year’s Peace Walk.
The theme of this year’s Peace Walk - Emerging Leaders’ Voices for Peace and Justice – is really special. This year, we are focusing on teaching love to children and young adults, the leaders of tomorrow. But, we are also focusing on children speaking up for what they believe in - for a better world, for equality, for interfaith peace and cooperation, for education, for climate change, for love, and for so much more.
All of the people who come to Walking the Walk come with their own passions, faith traditions, cultures, and backgrounds, but all are dedicated to making the world a better place. All share a desire to bring more love into the world, and all are ready to work towards trying to understand each other.
Many participants of Walking the Walk and their families are here today. If you or a family member is part of Walking the Walk, raise your hand. If you have any questions about Walking the Walk, talk to one of us or contact Margie Scharf, the program Director. Three of us from Walking the Walk are here today to talk to you about our interfaith experiences and how they have transformed our lives. I’ll let the others introduce themselves in a minute, but we each will be talking about seeing the world through new eyes because of our interfaith experiences, and how developing meaningful relationships with those of different religious traditions as young people is critical in making the world a better place.
Being exposed to people who are different from you is essential to the development of loving, kind, creative, and understanding human beings. So many of our beliefs are formed when we are children and are experiencing the world for the first time. Because of this, if we are raised in diverse environments, we will develop into understanding and tolerant human beings. If we are never exposed to those who are different, and, because of this, fear those that we do not understand, we will grow up into hateful and bigoted adults.
Walking the Walk gives young people those diverse experiences. At Walking the Walk, we intentionally surround ourselves with people from all walks of life and are committed to trying to understand each other.
I have always been committed to trying to make children's lives as meaningful as possible, because children are people too, and, like all people, deserve to be doing real work that makes a difference in this world. My experiences in Walking the Walk have reminded me how important this work is and what profound results it can have. It has reminded me what a big difference it can make to have diverse learning environments for children. For example, at Walking the Walk, we recently had a book discussion about the book “The Color of Water,” and the discussion was so much more meaningful because of the diversity of the participants. We all learned so much more and had so much more fun than if we were a homogenous group. And my experiences with diverse learning environments are consistent with research - when people work in diverse groups, they always learn more from each other and produce something far superior than if there was no diversity in the group.
This is also one of the reasons why the Peace Walk has been so successful - when a dedicated group of diverse people come together with a mission this powerful, and a result this poignant, then nothing can stop them. So, here we are - a group of beautifully diverse people of all ages who are embarking on a wonderful journey together - a journey of love, of understanding, and of peace.