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Fostering friendships among all Americans

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Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Santa Cruz Open House: A thought provoking event

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

One July 11, 2009, American Muslim Voice Foundation, Northern California Regional Campaign for a U.S. Department of Peace, along with a dozen other peace groups and multi-faith groups held an Open House/peace picnic in Santa Cruz, CA.

Annie Kelley was our gracious host. Her serene backyard provided the perfect setting for the open house/peace picnic. The weather was perfect.  Chirruping of birds melodiously added to the peaceful soothing sound of water from the creek.

Santa Cruze 7-11-2009-10A

Sounds of soft conversations and laughter added charm to the environment.  There were over 50 people who shared their vision of peace and what they are doing to achieve that goal.

The food was plentiful, delicious with fresh fruits from the backyard trees that was a special treat.

Kelley’s invitation message for the event was thought provoking: “Sometimes when planting early seeds in a new part of the garden, not everything can be done at once! Looking forward to seeing each of you again...whenever, wherever, however that may unfold.” 

Nancy Merritt from the Northern California Campaign for Department of Peace praised Samina Sundas and the AMV Foundation for holding peace picnics from the past five years. She said “this picnic was mostly inspired by Samina’s vision.”Santa Cruze 7-11-2009-17

The AMV Founding Executive Director, Samina F. Sundas pointed out that the AMV holds these events to foster friendships among all Americans to bridge the cultural and religious gap. “We strongly believe that it is with education and social interaction we will be able to erase fear and foster friendship.”

She went on to say that “we have a choice, do we want to share who we are with the world or let the media and hate mongers paint us as extremists, terrorists.”

An interesting part of the event was an invitation to give a personal perception of peace.  The peace activists were asked: (1) What is your definition of peace? (2) What would you like others to feel in your presence?

Here are some comments on peace shared by the participants:

Peace is not just a word, peace is not a bird, not an olive branch, it is a way of life. Peace is how we treat others and what we are willing to do to create peace for our future generations.

Peace is a state of balance and understanding in yourself and between others, where respect is gained by the acceptance of differences and tolerance persists. Santa Cruze 7-11-2009-2

Peace is the state prevailing during the absence of war. Conflicts should be resolved through dialog, people's rights are respected and their voices are heard.

Peace is a state of friendship and cordiality. No peace without just.

Peace is the absence of mental stress or anxiety. One has to be at peace with himself/herself for achieving peace at large.

On second the question, what would you like others to feel in your presence, was answered as cherished, loved, welcomed, accepted, empowered, at peace, appreciated, respected, calm and confident.

The event ended with a musical rendition and mystic singing by Willard and his group.

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