Walks For Peace
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, 11/26/99
Over three days of the Millennium change the United Religions Initiative organized three Peace Walks around San Francisco's Bay Area. Walk number one began at the Presidio of San Francisco's Interfaith Chapel, the second took place in Tiburon and Belvedere in Marin County, the third walked from Down's Methodist church in Oakland to the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery.
The Peace Walks were part of the "72 Hours of Peace-building" project of the United Religions Initiative. The 72 Hours project proposed that over the three days of the millennium it would be good for people all over the world to look back over humankind's most bloody century and resolve to change, to do something positive for peace among people and among religions. The idea caught on and over 300 projects arose around the world happening spontaneously from Dec. 31st to Jan. 2, 2000. For example, a Jesuit priest in Pakistan proposed a walk across Pakistan from Karachi to Kashmir. The walk drew tens of thousands of participants, included Catholics, Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Sikhs and other religions who were dedicated peace and an end to hostility among religions. In Brazil a United Religions 72 Hours project asked citizens to put down their guns; under the famous statue of Jesus in Rio de Janiero, thousands of handguns were smashed into scrap metal. In San Quentin Prison, prisoners on Death Row held a prayer vigil to seek repentance for their offenses and to ask for blessings for the world. Walks and prayer vigils for peace were held in many other countries around the world.
The founder of the United Religions, Rev. William Swing, Bishop of California, the head of Grace Cathedral of San Francisco, decided to hold three Peace Walks in the Bay Area, in solidarity with the Peace Walkers in Pakistan and other countries.
Presidio, San Francisco, 12/31/99
On 9:00 AM on Friday morning, Dec. 31st, two hundred people, representing fourteen religions in the Bay Area, met at the Interfaith Chapel in the Presidio. Participants included the founder of the Wen Wu Academy of Chinese Culture, Dr. Chiang Yun-chung and his wife, painter and qi gong teacher Hui Uu. Mrs. Chiang led her students in a demonstration of qi gong before the walk began. The Ten Ren tea company offered a tea ceremony and a young woman played the Chinese lute.
The Peace Walk traveled from the Chapel to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge where Spanish missionary priests said the first mass in California in 1776. Bishop Swing acknowledged that in the next two centuries, the European Christian religions caused many injustices to the Indian tribes of the area, including the Ohlone tribe, who were native to the Presidio for 5,000 years. Bishop Swing asked the representatives of religions to unite in prayer, and to re-dedicate the Golden Gate to peace among the religions for all peoples and for the environment.
Rev. Heng Sure of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association to lead the group in reciting the name of the Buddha Amitabha on behalf of all the souls that have committed suicide at the Golden Gate Bridge. He asked everywhere to dedicate the merit to help bring peace to people who cannot find rest because of taking their own lives.
The walk continued along Crissey Field and concluded back at the Interfaith Chapel at noon.
Tiburon, Marin County, 1/01/2000
On Saturday 150 walkers began at St. Stephens Episcopal Church in Belvedere and followed the scenic San Francisco Bay shoreline to the Presbyterian Church in Tiburon. The walk concluded with an interfaith gathering and prayers by Muslims, Jews, and Christians
Oakland - Berkeley, 1/02/2000
On Sunday the walk began at Downs Memorial United Methodist Church and preceded along the streets of Oakland to the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery. The marchers sang songs and greeted the passersby, many of whom joined the march. The Berkeley Buddhist Monastery is a branch of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Rev. Heng Sure described the founder of the Monastery, Venerable Master Hsuan Hua's vision of a Center for World Religions, and how the late Catholic Cardinal of China, Paul Yu-bin, accepted his invitation to serve as the first Chancellor of the World Religions Center at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
Heng Sure next asked Prof. Yung Chung-an and Master Y. C. Chiang to speak to the gathering. Prof. Yung said that "All religions teach people to be good and compassionate. Today people from all backgrounds and beliefs have come together to plant seeds of peace among religions. We hope that it will bear the fruit of a peaceful world."
Master Y. C. Chiang said, "I am happy to be part of this significant gathering today, and I hope the followers of the two great Sages, Buddha and Jesus will use the power of their religions to make a peaceful world. If today is a sign of the new millennium then we can look forward to a time of peace, blessings, health and happiness for all. This is my wish for all of you today."
A special guest, Mr. Chen Ji-hsiung, Secretary of the Investigative Yuan of the Republic of China, said, "The religious believers of the world, with their different languages, different backgrounds and different cultures, all share a common goal in life: the search for peace and love. Today's gathering shows a concrete step towards that goal, beginning with peace among religions. From today onwards I hope that all people can learn to take care of our brothers and sisters, and in this way, influence the whole world to care about and take care of each other. Then the world can know peace."
The founder of the United Religions Initiative, Right Rev. William Swing, Bishop of California, gave the keynote address. "Never worry about starting out small. Today we have Downs Methodist Church and the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery. It doesn't look like much, since the world has such pressing problems, in the bigger picture our coming together doesn't look like much. Don't worry. The idea that Buddhists and Methodists can make peace, and this was not possible a short time ago, that news is going to inspire Hindus and Sikhs, Muslims and Jews to make the same discovery. Small and large isn't the real measure. The measure is how sincere is your heart. The old century of never looking past your borders is over. Those old walls have to come down and we must now find the people behind those walls. We must build our new world on mutual respect, harmony and the happiness we feel today. May it be so!"
Bishop Swing said he was happy that the Chinese community of the Bay Area came forward to participate in the activities of the United Religions Initiative. He said that the religions and culture of China are among the oldest of the world and it is important that their viewpoints and hopes for the future of the world be fully expressed in the planning and decisions of the URI.
The purpose of the United Religions Initiative is to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation, end religiously-motivated violence and create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and for all living beings.