Report back on Philadelphia Interfaith Peace Organizing


We want to share with our readers some of the work we've been doing locally to build an interfaith peace movement.

The Shalom Center co-sponsored an interfaith peace event on Sunday, June 27th which called for a Truth-Telling as we approach the June 30th-Iraq deadline. This event was the fourth in a series of spring antiwar/ anti-gun/ anti-militarist events here in Philadelphia.

The series began April 4 with an observance that intertwined a new Passover Freedom Seder, Palm Sunday, and Dr. Martin Luther King's teachings about Racism, Militarism, & Materialism to challenge the concentration of unaccountable power in the Bush Administration's effort to achieve a global US empire and in global corporations.

That effort and its participants overlapped with a separately organized Walk for Muslim-Jewish Reconciliation on May 2 that brought about 300 Muslims, Christians, & Jews into a pilgrimage from a mosque to a church to the Liberty Bell to a synagogue, with prayer services in each place appropriate to that tradition.

It continued May 27 with an interfaith service in Philadelphia connected with the National Council of Churches' nationwide Memorial Day weekend memorials to all the dead of Iraq, and then on June 27 with this independently initiated local effort that dovetailed with calls for action by Win Without War & United for Peace & Justice.

The June 27 event — we called it a "Truth-Out" and headlined both a Talmud text about justice, peace, and truth being a single One, and the New Testament text that "You shall know the truth and the truth shall sent you free — drew about 200 people (on a gorgeous outdoor-beckoning weekend). We focused on the truth about the Iraq war, gun violence in the cities, and lethal priority choices for military, not social, expenditures.

Speakers included Celeste Zappala, mother of a Philadelphia reservist killed in Iraq; Jerry Mondesire, exec of the Philadelphia NAACP; and Shelly Yanoff of Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth. The event was framed by a litany of sorrow and determination that drew on Jewish, Christian, and Muslim texts and our own lives.

Two newspaper stories about the event follow.

Shalom, Arthur

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director
The Shalom Center

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Philadelphia Inquirer, June 26, 2004
Coalition to address war and violence

Interfaith Peace Network schedules a "Truth-Out" for tomorrow afternoon in North Philadelphia.

Calling for an end to the war in Iraq and to the violence on Philadelphia's streets, a coalition of religious groups will hold a "Truth-Out" tomorrow from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Church of the Advocate, 18th and Diamond Streets in North Philadelphia.

The Interfaith Peace Network was formed by the Church of the Advocate, First United Methodist Church of Germantown, the Shalom Center in Mount Airy, the Brandywine Peace Community in Swarthmore, the Metropolitan Christian Council, the Catholic Peace Fellowship, and other groups in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, to urge a peaceful response from the United States.

Tomorrow's event will include speeches by Celeste Zappala, whose son, Sherwood Baker, was killed in Iraq; Philadelphia NAACP president J. Whyatt Mondesire, who will talk about the effects of poverty and guns on the city; Henry Nicholas, a local union leader and parent of a soldier in Iraq who will discuss the war's effect on the working class; and Shelly Yanoff of Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth, who will speak on the spreading culture of violence.

Letter-writing campaigns and voter-registration booths will give those attending the chance to have their voices heard.

For details, call 610-544-1818.


Philadelphia Inquirer, Sun, Jun. 27, 2004
'Fahrenheit' draws crowds, activists
The movie, playing at 12 theaters locally, is projected to gross up to $20 million over the weekend. Liberal groups seized an opportunity to recruit volunteers.

By Frederick Cusick
Inquirer Staff Writer

Friday's opening of Michael Moore's controversial and much-hyped film about President Bush, terrorism and the Iraq war, Fahrenheit 9/11, drew sell-out crowds and a cluster of liberal advocacy groups to the Ritz East theater on Second Street.

Barbara Caldwell, academic dean at the Moorestown Friends School in Moorestown, went to the 4:45 p.m. performance. She said she was moved by the section of Moore's movie that focused on the U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

"At the end, when they make the connections between who fights the war - mostly poor people - and the economic status of those who have taken us to war, it's heartrending," she said.

All 10 Ritz East Friday shows of Fahrenheit 9/11 were sold out long before Friday's opening.

The movie is playing at about 12 theaters in the Philadelphia area, and an eye-popping (for a documentary) 868 theaters nationwide.

Industry estimates have projected its Friday-to-Sunday gross at $10 million to $20 million.

The film is expected to easily become the highest-grossing documentary ever, surpassing the 2002 release Bowling for Columbine, also directed by Michael Moore.

Columbine, a provocative piece exploring America's gun culture that earned $21.6 million domestically and earned Moore an Oscar for best documentary.

On Friday, several liberal groups took advantage of the movie's opening to set up business outside the Ritz East.

There was the Green Party; the anti-Bush MoveOn PAC, a fund-raiser for the national Democratic Party; representatives of Refuse and Resist, which has demonstrated at party conventions; and a staff member of the Shalom Center.

The Shalom Center's Emily Nepon went to the 4 p.m. show. She said she liked the movie but felt it should have said more about the mistreatment Muslims have endured in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001.

"I felt like it was a really powerful movie, but I didn't think it really told the story of Arab and Muslim people in this country," she said.

Nepon was handing out leaflets asking people to attend Sunday's "Let's Get the Truth-Out" meeting sponsored by a coalition of peace advocacy groups from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Church of the Advocate, 18th and Diamond Streets in North Philadelphia.

Ray Murphy, local coordinator for MoveOn PAC, said his volunteers signed up at least 100 people among the moviegoers to attend tomorrow's "home meetings," which will feature a national Web cast with Michael Moore at 8 p.m.

The meetings, at various sites around the region, will also discuss the movie and strategies to get Bush out of office.

Conservative and Republican leaders have questioned the accuracy of Moore's movie and hinted that steps should be taken against it, but opponents were scarce on opening night.

"We haven't seen many Bush supporters," Murphy said. "There were rumors about protests, but I haven't seen any protests at all." Contact staff writer Frederick Cusick at 215-854-4449 or


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