Al-Aqsa Islamic Society is a community of Muslims in Philadelphia that does much more than simply offer religious services. The society has partnered with many civic organizations to bring art, social services and unity to the City of Brotherly Love. One of its annual events occurs on April 30. It's the 14th Annual Philadelphia Interfaith Walk for Peace and Reconciliation, for Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims.
The vision of the walk is "to nurture a transformative process of reflection, relationship-building and action among faith and secular groups working toward peace and justice through periodic dialogues about challenging issues; community service, outreach to religious and ethnic groups experiencing intolerance or persecution; and an annual Interfaith Peace Walk."
The mission of the organization is "to facilitate peace, justice and reconciliation by engaging faith groups and other communities in dialogue, reflection, action and an annual Interfaith Peace Walk." It works toward this mission all year long, not just for one day.
This year's walk will be through the West Oak Lane Community, but people will begin to gather at Al Aqsa Islamic Society at 12:30 p.m. Buses will take people to the beginning of the walk and be available during the walk for those who have difficulty walking. Following the walk, Al Aqsa is hosting a vegetarian dinner, free of charge. However, participants will have an opportunity to contribute to the costs of the event. Women who plan to enter the mosque should have their arms and legs covered and wear a head covering out of respect to the faith.
People are encouraged to wear white during the walk as the color symbolizes peace and unity. The walk will take place rain or shine, so bring your umbrellas and rain coats if the weather looks yucky. No banners or signs will be allowed. This walk is not a demonstration, but a stroll through the neighborhood focusing on prayer, dialogue and singing. Stops will be made at different houses of worship to allow time for teaching and other activities. Medical personnel and local law enforcement will be on hand to provide safety and traffic control.
More information about the walk can be found at interfaithpeacewalk.org.
Al Aqsa Contributes to the Community
The outreach program of this mosque is vital to the Arab-American population in Philadelphia. The most recent data shows that there are about 200,000 Arab-Americans in the city, or about 12 percent of the population. The Philadelphia Arab American CDC helps the community find health services, gives assistance for utilities, finds housing and much more. It has an office inside the mosque to make it accessible to Arab-Americans.
The mosque partners with several art organizations in the area to beautify the community, introduce students to the arts and provide culture to the community. Al Aqsa works hard to build relationships with organizations that contribute to other aspects of the community. The mosque plants trees in conjunction with the Philadelphia Horticulture Society. It cleans up the community with South Kensington Community Partners.
The outside of the mosque has been transformed into a beautiful display of Islamic artwork with murals and decorative tiles. If you are ever in the area, you should walk by the building just to experience the work that has gone into the architecture. Stop into the grocery store for some excellent food that is Halal.
Join in the Peace Movement
If you are in Philadelphia on April 30, make a point to take part in the Interfaith Peace Walk. If you cannot get to Philly, talk to your own spiritual leaders about putting together an activity to promote peace in your own community. You might be surprised at how many people would be supportive and encouraging when you try to promote peace and understanding.