Youths find common ground in interfaith walk for peace

So a Jew, a Muslim and a Christian are walking down a sidewalk in Johnson County during a Chiefs game when

What? No, not a joke.

It happened Sunday and it wasn’t just those three but several Jews, Muslims and Christians. A few Hindus, too. Mostly young. They all wanted to show the world that regardless of craziness elsewhere, a group of kids from around Kansas City could take a walk on a beautiful fall afternoon.

About 200 youngsters took part in the third annual Peace Walk sponsored by the Kansas City Interfaith Youth Alliance. They began at Church of the Resurrection, walked to Beth Shalom synagogue and then on to the Islamic Center of Johnson County.

They were encouraged to meet kids of other religions. At each stop along the way, they heard a prayer from that faith. Before leaving, Church of the Resurrection member Matt Herndon hit on the spirit of the day:

“God, help us make new friends.”

Alex Sher intended to do just that.

“Last year I walked with a fellow Jew and I totally regret that,” Sher said before starting out on the nearly five-mile walk.

Her father, Scott Sher, smiled at those words from his daughter, who attends Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy. He was proud she wanted to take part in a little diversity.

“Community is about getting to know each other and wanting to help each other,” Alex Sher said.

“And a day like this shows that can work,” said Naaz Lakhani, a Muslim who goes to Blue Valley North High School.

“We need more days like this,” Faryal Jafri, also of Blue Valley North, added.

And with what’s going on in the world, could there be a better time for a peace walk?

A video that mocks the founder of Islam prompted violent demonstrations after it got widespread attention on YouTube earlier this month.

“A man makes a lousy video in America and people start killing in Pakistan?” said M.A. Mirza, chairman of the Islamic Center of Johnson County.

“Why all the craziness? Who cares about a lousy video?”

The illiterate and uninformed often fall prey to religious fanaticism, he said. It’s all about education.

The truth, he asked? Different religions take different paths to get to the same destination.

“Religion is supposed to be about helping each other — not killing each other,” he said.

This year’s Peace Walk proceeds will benefit Free the Children, a youth initiative that since its founding in 1995 has grown into the world’s largest network of children helping children with more than 1 million youth involved in education and development programs in 45 countries.

But what can a group of mixed-faith teens in Kansas City do to change the world?

Jon Willis, an adult mentor for the interfaith alliance, smiled at the question.

“We want to change the next generation of leaders so they can do that.”