Teens embrace differences for interfaith Peace Walk

10/13/2013 11:17 PM

10/13/2013 11:17 PM

It is one the oldest rules of polite conversation: Steer clear of politics and religion.

On Sunday, nearly 100 marchers — all but a few of them teenagers — tossed that rule aside for the politest of events: the annual Kansas City Interfaith Youth Alliance Peace Walk.

Mahroosa Haideri, a Muslim and 16-year-old junior at the Barstow School, walked together with Alex Sher, a Jewish 17-year-old senior at Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy.

Richelle Robinson, 15, a sophomore who is Protestant and attends the Catholic Notre Dame de Sion High School, walked with classmate Guthrie Kimball, who said she ascribes to no religion in particular.

Manahil Khan, 15, who practices her faith at the Islamic Center of Johnson County, walked in her traditional head covering, the hijab, with friends of different faiths she has known since middle school.

The entire point of the walk, now in its fourth year, isn’t just to show tolerance for one another’s religious differences, said Insia Zufer, 17, a senior at Blue Valley Northwest High School, but to show that “we accept and embrace them.”

“I want to challenge every one of you to meet a different person today, hopefully a person of different faith,” Sher said to the gathering. The walkers started the 4-mile route at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, about the same time the Kansas City Chiefs were marching down the field at Arrowhead Stadium to defeat the Oakland Raiders.

Teens including Miles Hogerty, 16, a sophomore at Rockhurst High School, put aside watching the game when his friend Khan asked him to march for the first time.

“I think I’d rather sit,” he joked.

The walk, which began at the Church of the Resurrection, 13720 Roe Ave. in Leawood, wound its way south through Johnson County to Congregation Beth Shalom and ended at the Islamic Center of Johnson County, 9001 W. 151st St. in Overland Park.

Just fewer than 100 people dressed in slate blue T-shirts began the march, but others were expected to join along the route. Last year, about 200 people took part. Money raised from this year’s event went to benefit UNICEF.

“Our main goal is to promote peace and unity,” said Haideri, the Barstow student, “and to get teenagers together.”

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