The Annual Walk Event, which was the initial project of 9/11 Unity Walk, will celebrate its eighth anniversary this year. The Walk has been described as a cross between a Ghandi-style walk and an open house tour. The experience includes:
- Muslim call to prayer at the synagogue
- Jewish cantor and gospel singers at the Islamic Center
- People of all faiths volunteering for service projects together
- and, yes, people of all faiths eating delicious Indian food!
2005: INAUGURAL WALK — “First steps”
More than 1500 participants gathered to walk together for the inaugural Unity Walk. They walked from the Washington Hebrew Congregation, Washington’s largest synagogue, to the Islamic Center, Washington’s oldest Mosque, and ended at the Gandhi Memorial.
Along the route, participants were welcomed with hospitality at seven other congregations along the way. Speakers included Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, Rabbi Bruce Lustig, Rt. Rev. John Chane, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, Rev Richard Cizik of the Nat. Assn of Evangelicals, Dr Rajwant Singh and many others.
2006: EXPANSION —”Celebrating Gandhi”
In preparation for the 5th anniversary of 9/11 in 2006, the Unity Walk established a national grassroots network reaching over 100 partners and sponsors.The Walk event was declared by the Mayor’s Office as “A Day Dedicated to Religious Harmony and Dialogue.” The night before the Walk, an educational panel and film were offered to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of Gandhi’s non-violence movement.
Rev. Mpho Tutu, Arun Gandhi, and other faith and community leaders led the Walk to highlight the modern-day relevance of Gandhi’s teachings. Participants were greeted by Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Papal Nuncio, as well as other members of the Diplomatic Community.
New York City also hosted its inaugural Unity Walk in lower Manhattan, hosted by Religions for Peace USA.
2007: REFINEMENT — “Lessons of MLK”
In 2007, the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington led the coordination of the planning and logistics for the DC walk, and added opportunities for interfaith dialogue both during the planning process and on the day of the Walk.
The Faith Club and the Hon. Harris Wofford, Co-founder of the Peace Corp and contemporary of MLK, joined the illustrious group of speakers to offer lessons from Dr. King’s movement. Members of the Diplomatic Community were targeted in outreach to highlight the international impact and statement of this event.
2008: INSTITUTIONALIZATION and CHILDREN — “Bringing the Message to Youth”
Once again in 2008, thousands of people gathered in DC and New York to demonstrate the value of building bridges of understanding.
This year, 9/11 Unity Walk focused on its organizational development, and incorporated and attained tax exempt status as a 501 (c)(3) organization.
The mission of the Walk expanded to offer the Youth Service Initiative, interfaith community service opportunities designed by youth for youth. On MLK Day and in April for the Global Days of Youth Service, youth gathered to volunteer for area environmental organizations and interfaith dialogue.
2009: PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT — “Uniting to Serve”
Annually, the Unity Walk brings people of any and no faiths together for one day to imagine what could be possible when we work together. New in 2009, we looked for ways to further enhance the experience for all participants throughout the year, before and after the annual Walk event.
The growth of our Youth Service Initiative continued to connect us with the next generation and to foster interfaith dialogue through community service. In preparation for the 2009 event, the Unity Walk co-hosted an evening lecture series and Interfaith Iftar dinner to explore “what compels one to serve.” The Unity Walk opened this year with a Community Service Fair to highlight the national emphasis on volunteerism and provide a forum for participants to come back together again around service.
It was noted repeatedly that the richest experience this year for participants was the opportunity to enter houses of worship along Embassy Row, the route of the walk. Host communities were given additional time to develop short programs, sharing their religious traditions through music, meditation and food.
2010: SERVICE — “Building Peace by Serving Each Other”
The 6th Annual Unity Walk welcomed people to “Build peace by serving each other.” Participants visited a variety of religious congregations for open houses and celebration located along Washington, DC’s picturesque Embassy Row.
Building on the previous year’s focus on service, the Unity Walk opened at the Sikh Gurdwara with a clothing drive service project to benefit Martha’s Table, a local social service organization for homeless and poor in the DC area.
Participants once again made their way to the Islamic Center, and on to the Gandhi Memorial near Dupont Circle. 2010 saw the evolution of our Youth Service Initiative into a pilot program for interfaith youth leadership development, the Interfaith Youth Action Group (IYAG). In partnership with ML Resources’ Social Vision, IYAG was set up to build on previous efforts by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s Faiths Act Fellows and the Interfaith Youth Core.
2011: REMEMBRANCE — “From Different Walks, We Serve As One”
On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the 9/11 Unity Walk’s annual walk event broke the previous years’ attendance records. 9/11 Unity Walk continued as the great forum for people of all backgrounds, faiths and no faith to come together and put aside their differences. As it had every year since 2005, houses of worship on Embassy Row opened their doors to each other and, symbolically, the World.
The Washington Post, CNN and Associated Press recognized the significance of more than 1,000 people walking “from synagogue to church to mosque and beyond” on the tenth anniversary of 9/11. As Amy Gardner of Washington Post observed, “Tow-headed boys in bathing trunks walked alongside a family of Muslims, the mother wearing a hijab.”
The event attracted world recognized speakers such as the author and creator of the Charter for Compassion, Karen Armstrong, and non-violence activist, Arun Gandhi.
9/11 Unity Walk continued to make strides with its organizational development and defined its 3 program areas: Compassionate Leadership, Experiential Education and Intentional Service.