Peace is as the Peacemaker Does

Peace is as the Peacemaker Does

By: Khaleelah (Dionne) Muhammad, J.D

Harvey “Joe” Henderson of the Bar-Kays is credited with the phrase made famous by Public Enemy, “Freedom is a road seldom traveled by the multitude.” But why should it be so? Why has it been so? Freedom lies in the ability to think freely, to listen freely, to speak freely and to reason freely with all contributing ideas, perspectives and data set out equally for examination, none given more weight than the other merely because of the conduit’s race, ancestry, economic class, culture, religion, or other irrelevant factor.

On Friday, September 10, 2010, I witnessed something that I have rarely seen- a room full of people modeling the process that yields freedom. I have been working in the anti-violence movement for a considerable amount of time. I have served on various committees, worked with an array of organizations, collaboratives and coalitions. I had always sought to unite, connect, build bridges and create synergies for the benefit of my communities and humanity. Masha- Allah, on Friday, I saw a tangible, touchable, bi-product of that and now, there is no turning back!

Friday evening 50 people of diverse faith communities, denominations, ethnicities, cultures, races and even diverse places came to the Faith Community of St. Sabina to identify ways that they could collectively address the issues that result in violence within our larger Chicagoland community. Determined that violence would no more run amuck, unchallenged and unabated, Community Ambassadors Khaleelah Muhammad, J.D.; Saleem Muhammad; and Reverend Velda R. Love were in attendance and serving, as was OCON intern Elizabeth McCreless.

Ambassador Velda Love brought a group of her students from North Park University, a Christian college on Chicago’s Northside, as well as a fellow faculty member. A sampling of the population included a retired fire fighter who brought with him a host of targeted solutions to the issue of violence;a social service provider who works with ex-offenders; a minister who mentors young men; and a Christian pastor from Evanston, who wanted to pitch in and help Chicago and get ideas to serve her community, a long with pastors of other congregations.

There was also representation from the Chicago Archdiocese, the Deborah Movement, the Illinois Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the I Care Campaign, the Faith Community of St. Sabina- the Catholic parish that partnered with Muslim One Chicago One Nation.

Community Ambassador Khaleelah Muhammad to host the program. Anti-violence resources and data were made available to all participants, including ongoing programs and a list of community demands presented by the community at the close of the school year. Khaleelah Muhammad had St. Sabina parishioner Tonka Maljevic open the program with a Christian Prayer, then the Al-Fatiha prayer was recited. The participants were provided an overview of the One Chicago One Nation Program and the importance of interfaith dialogue and community work was conveyed by storytelling.

Ambassador Muhammad shared her story of her fleeing Chicago after high school to escape what she then perceived to be a hopeless situation, the subsequent loss of her close high school friend as a result of gun violence, and her decision to come back home to Chicago to serve her community and how she decided to join hands with the catholic faith community of St. Sabina that had transformed faith into practice through their anti-violence work.

Link Film Contest winners-The Mission and Growing Power.org were shown and discussed after the participants agreed upon ground rules to create a healthy space for dialgoue. The participants then caucused in break out sessions to begin discussing the work they would commit to going forward, how that would look, what roles faith communities should play, how they could better work together, what individual and collective capacities are, what resources are available, which need to be requisitioned, etc. Each group answered questions designed to help each member of that group to establish an individual action plan.

Finally, the spokesperson for each group shared what the group came up with in terms of community resources, and next steps. Finally presentations were made to show members of the audience how they could get involved with ongoing efforts to end violence, including legislative efforts, direct response, the 5K Peace Walk on October 2nd, and the Deborah Movement. An online worksite is being established for the group to continue their efforts. All in all, it was amazing and we look forward for the work that is to come!

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