On September 11, 2023, a remarkable event took place, which exemplified unity, peace, and understanding amidst the backdrop of one of the historic tragic dates in American history. American Muslim Voice organized a multi-faith picnic, inviting people from various community, religious backgrounds to come together in an act of solidarity and hope. This event served as a powerful symbol of resilience and interfaith cooperation, showcasing the strength of unity over division.
The event was held outside the Palo Alto City Council on a beautiful evening. The event was sponsored by American Muslim Voice Foundation (AMV), CA State Senator Dave Cortese and Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice. Senator Cortese sent a certification of appreciation to the American Muslim Voice.
Twenty years ago, the founder and Executive Director, Samina Sundas founded AMV to build bridges among all America’s communities, celebrate diversity and work towards protecting and preserving civil liberties and constitutional rights for all Americans. I strongly believe in this noble vision and joined AMV to help organizing this kind of peace-building effort.
September 11, 2001, is a date that will forever be etched in the memories of Americans. The tragic events of that day changed the nation, leading to increased tensions, fear, and even hatred among different religious and ethnic groups. The Multi-Faith Picnic: A Beacon of Unity American Muslim Voice’s decision to organize a multi-faith picnic on September 11 year after year was not only bold but deeply significant. The event aimed to encourage dialogue, cultural exchange, and friendship among individuals from diverse backgrounds, including Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and people of no faith.
One of the fundamental aspects of the picnic was the act of breaking bread together. Sharing food is a universal way of fostering connections and breaking down barriers. A vegetarian friendly evening meal was provided to the audience and to have lively conversations before the program started. In the aftermath 9/11, the American Muslim community faced prejudice, discrimination, and suspicion. The event organizers recognized the need to foster unity and understanding in these trying times.
It event started with the recitation of the Holy Quran by a brother and sister team. They recited a passage which described the diversity in God’s creation (Chapter 49, verse number 13), which says, “Men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware”. We can witness God’s creation of diversity here in Bay Area and San Jose, where I call home has more than 50% of it’s residents who were born outside of U.S and belong to diverse cultures, ethnicity, languages and faith.
Honorable Lydia Kou, Mayor of Palo Alto, welcomed the audience and commended American Muslim Voice for organizing this event year after year. I was very impressed to know that City council members paused their session and took a break to come outside to take part in the event.
There were many other faith and community leaders’ speeches, songs, poetry readings. What a pleasant evening. Farha Andrabi, Co-Founder and President MVPA Musalla, offered a Muslim Prayer for peace. Christian prayer was offered by Rev. Burke Owens, Senior Pastor at the First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto. Chaim Koritzinsky, Rabbi of Congregation Etz Chayim offered the Jewish prayer.nRev. Dr. Diana Gibson, from Multifaith Voices for Peace & Justice, read a message from the September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. Rev. Ray Montgomery, Executive Director of PACT (People Acting in Community Together) spoked about Dr. Matin Luther King Jr’s Dream of Building a Beloved Community. The program ended with a candlelight vigil and a walk around the plaza.
I was especially thrilled to see my good friend Z (known as ZayanDa), Burmese recording artist, appropriately chose “Imagine All the People” by John Lennon to sing. As a Burmese-American who is also a Muslim, I am so excited to facilitate this collaboration. I hope we can continue to do so in our future events. Art has a unique ability to bridge cultural gaps, and glad to see that picnic included a variety of artistic performances. These performances highlighted the rich tapestry of cultural and religious diversity within our American community.
Samina Sundas, Founder of the American Muslim Voice Foundation, eloquently explained why her organization is striving to replace the culture of fear, division, & violence with a culture of hope, inclusion & peace.
In a world often plagued by division and misunderstanding, events such as this picnic exemplified the spirit of unity and the potential for people of different backgrounds to come together in peace. It served as a beacon of hope and a reminder that the values of love, tolerance, and respect are universal and transcend religious and cultural boundaries.
It was a powerful testament to the resilience and unity of the American people especially American Muslims. By leading to foster interfaith understanding, to celebrate diversity, and to promote dialogue, this event contributed to a brighter and more harmonious future for the nation. It serves as a reminder that even on a date marked by tragedy, hope and unity can prevail.
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