Multifaith Peace Picnic urges community to 'move from fear to friendship' | September 16, 2022 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - September 16, 2022

Multifaith Peace Picnic urges community to 'move from fear to friendship'

Organizers stress the need to cherish and celebrate diversity, even in times of tragedy

by Emily Margaretten

With a crowd of nearly 200 people expressing their support for a more peaceful and inclusive world, the American Muslim Voice Foundation capped off a National Day of Service and Remembrance with a Multifaith Peace Picnic at Palo Alto's King Plaza on Sept. 11.

Samina Sundas, executive director of the foundation, organized the first spiritual community gathering in 2011 to honor those who lost their lives on 9/11 and to do something positive in their memory. Since then, it has become a tradition for local spiritual leaders, dignitaries and community members to come together in friendship and peace to renounce fear and divisiveness.

"There is so much hate and division in our country," Sundas said. "And the only way you can ever get over the hate and anxiety about strangers is to get to know each other."

This year's gathering, which was jointly sponsored by state Sen. Dave Cortese and Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice, was celebratory in tone but did not shy away from controversy.

Palo Alto Mayor Pat Burt provided the welcoming remarks by emphasizing the need for community members to value diversity by appreciating one another, something that had to be continuously recognized and reenacted for democracy to work.

"We now realize that we have to have a renewed commitment to nurturing those principles, to understanding each other and to having tolerance with those we disagree with and really investing in what it means to have a democracy," he said.

But Sundas took exception with the word "tolerate."

"I don't want to be tolerated by anybody," she said. "I'm a human being. I cherish human beings. That's why we're here. I believe we're supposed to be cherished, accepted, loved and celebrated. So, let's do that."

Directly addressing the mayor and receiving enthusiastic applause for it, Sundas added, "Mayor, next time please say that — celebrated."

The theme of celebration carried on throughout the evening, as numerous musical performances by elementary and high school students addressed the pain of loss and exclusion while also offering messages of hope and renewal.

Talia Kertsman, 22, who was sitting among family and friends, was particularly pleased with the public visibility of the occasion and the opportunity for people to connect with one another and openly celebrate their identities.

Her mother, Stacey Kertsman, expressed similar sentiments and said that her daughter never knew a world before 9/11. This was an occasion to not just memorialize tragedy but to see how the world could be better, something that she found especially meaningful as an immigrant.

Cortese, meanwhile, addressed the difficulty of framing the Multifaith Peace Picnic as an occasion of celebration in his remarks to the audience. His office received a lot of negative emails the first time the event took place, he said.

"People were basically saying, 'How can you celebrate? How can you come together and use the title 'picnic' in the wake of what happened?

"And in my mind," he continued, "it was all the more reason we needed to go forward with it."

The alternative of people expressing their anger in violence instead of peaceful communion would just be another tragedy, Cortese said.

The night ended with a candlelight vigil, as everyone joined together in a large circle, swaying back and forth to music and conversing in low chatter.

The evening atmosphere was captured by the prayer of youth community volunteer Haaziq Altaf.

"When we start appreciating our presence with one another, we truly understand who we are," he said.

Email Editorial Intern Emily Margaretten at [email protected]

Comments

Posted by Yvette Miller
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 12, 2022 at 9:58 am

Yvette Miller is a registered user.

Semantic interpretations aside, Mayor Pat Burt said it best with sincerity and conviction..

"...we have to have a renewed commitment to understanding each other and to having tolerance with those we disagree with and really investing in what it means to have a democracy,"

And then this uncalled for retort...

"I don't want to be tolerated by anybody," I'm a human being. I cherish human beings. That's why we're here. I believe we're supposed to be cherished, accepted, loved and celebrated."

"Mayor, next time please say that — celebrated."

^ Not everyone can or will be cherished, accepted, loved, and celebrated by everyone. This is a simple fact of life (aka reality).


Posted by Robyn Harris
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 12, 2022 at 10:55 am

Robyn Harris is a registered user.

Kudos to Mayor Pat Burt for his straightforward 9/11 address.

That said, it was inappropriate and rude for Ms. Sundas to correct his words as he was emphasizing tolerance towards those who may differ in opinion politically.

Acceptance and respect towards all is imperative towards ensuring a true domocracy but to 'celebrate' the existence of anyone and everyone on Earth is a stretch.




Posted by Citizen
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 12, 2022 at 11:30 am

Citizen is a registered user.

Does that mean celebrating (and tolerating) people of all skin colors? And faiths?

Currently, members of one skin color group are being attacked, on the basis of the color of their skin.


Posted by Arnold Jensen USN (ret.)
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 12, 2022 at 1:12 pm

Arnold Jensen USN (ret.) is a registered user.

> "I believe we're supposed to be cherished, accepted, loved and celebrated."

In the American military, one salutes and respects a higher rank but not always the individual holding that higher rank.

In American civilian society, equality is paramount to preserving democracy and as in the military, respect must be earned. It is not an automatic entitlement.

And to be cherished, accepted, loved, and celebrated by all is perhaps best reserved for certain family members who have earned the right to be acknowledged in that manner.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2022 at 1:23 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

It is probably well beyond time to stop dividing us into different groups by skin color or ethnicity. I get so tired of having to fill this information on forms of all types. The more we label people one thing or another, the more we will be divided on such terms.

We are all humans, some are good people, some are not so good. Some do crime and some are victims of crime. Instead of dividing us up, we should spend more effort in teaching the next generations to judge by the content of their character and nothing else. We should be beyond this division by now but instead we are being urged to feel guilt for who we are and even apologize for our heritage. That will do nothing to help us all feel we belong.

Stop the labels. We are all members of the human race.


Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Sep 12, 2022 at 10:26 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

This is healthy. The easiest way to breakdown division is to get to know someone who is a little different than you. The differences will always be there, but as the relationship grows, the differences fade into the backround. A win-win situation.


Posted by Trisha Taylor
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2022 at 8:11 am

Trisha Taylor is a registered user.

• 'move from fear to friendship'

The 'phobe' suffix is being overused from the standpoint that the ending is now being construed to denote a fear rather than contempt and/or suspicion.

Examples...hydrophobia (a symptom of rabies) and germophobe (fear of microscopic contamination) VS homophobe, xenophobe etc.

'Phobe' is now being used to denote bigotry and in many cases, fear is not the issue.


Posted by Diana
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 13, 2022 at 9:40 am

Diana is a registered user.

Thank you to American Muslim Voice for hosting such a wonderful event! A chance to "know one another" and "move from fear to friendship" -- what a gift!


Posted by Yousef Amad
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2022 at 11:12 am

Yousef Amad is a registered user.

Another step in the right direction would be for all Americans to consider and observe two important Muslim holidays.

There are two official holidays in Islam, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, are celebrated by Muslims worldwide. Both holidays occur on dates in the lunar Islamic calendar, which is different from the solar-based Gregorian calendar, so they are observed on different Gregorian dates every year.


Posted by Estelle Davis
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2022 at 3:02 pm

Estelle Davis is a registered user.

"Another step in the right direction would be for all Americans to consider and observe two important Muslim holidays."

^ I think this consideration would be highly devisive and controversial as there are no observed religious holidays in America other than Christmas and Easter which are highly commercialized observances.

Hannukah is the only true religious holiday but it is only observed by citizens of American Jewish descent.

Creating religious holidays would be a step backwards as we reside in a secular society.


Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 13, 2022 at 5:42 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

In our moment of peace and to hear words like “tolerate” was spoken out of context Mayor Burt. We “tolerate” the unhoused when we feel sad, yet assist in nothing to alleviate the affliction by truly and wholeheartedly embrace solutions for permanent supportive homes. We tolerate more homes for the less fortunate by sticking 2000 low-income homes on a freeway near a wastewater plant with no transit”miles from nowhere”... when we embrace and celebrate differences by making lives better for those suffering every day on our streets and elsewhere: those isolated & alone, the poor, the elderly. When action speak louder than words is when we step away from our wealth and come out of our protective skin. Tolerance for others is acceptance, embrace the change make — homes for not just walls and words. Our children too are forlorn. They see the unhooked, the blight, those ignoring this horrendous poverty. Share ownership sharing wealth sharing sharing ... many hand make fast steady quality work. TY


Posted by Sandra Lowe
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 13, 2022 at 6:02 pm

Sandra Lowe is a registered user.

I am assuming that the 'tolerance' comment made by Mayor Burt was in reference to political discourse and he was emphasizing the preservation of American democracy.

@Native

On this day of remembrance, there was no need or exigency for him to address all of the other pressing national issues, important as they are.

As for addressing this gathering of Muslim adherents, let's not forget that 9/11 was an attack on America and if anything, he was promoting unity among differing factions (political and ethnic) to ensure that something like September 11th never happens again.

And more power to him.

@Native to the BAY...

Correct me if I am mistaken but you seem to be confusing 'tolerance' with 'indifference' in your well-spoken/written follow-up.


Posted by Marilyn Johnson
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2022 at 6:36 pm

Marilyn Johnson is a registered user.

Concurring with Native to the BAY.

Many Palo Altans like to think of themselves as progressively enlightened but only at their convenience.

In reality, a sizable number of Palo Alto residents are intolerant of the economically disadvantaged and the homeless because it disrupts the panoramic view of their self-rendered idyllic existence.


Posted by Carolyn Weiss
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 14, 2022 at 7:21 am

Carolyn Weiss is a registered user.

At the risk of sounding like a cynic...there will never be peace, harmony, and complete acceptance among mankind.

That old Coca Cola TV commercial where people are dressed in their native garb singing, "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony" was both farcical and unrealistic.

Ironically, it is mutual hatred and contempt rather than love and acceptance that unites people towards a common cause.

In retrospect, the only time Americans were truly united was during World War II and immediately following 9/11.

Everything else on the agenda is subject to debate, disagreement, and/or bigotry.


Posted by Ken Massey
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 14, 2022 at 11:13 am

Ken Massey is a registered user.

"...it is mutual hatred and contempt rather than love and acceptance that unites people towards a common cause."

Concurring...mutual contempt and distaste often breeds unity towards a common cause or a perceived enemy regardless of the internal political spectrum.

America was founded on contempt towards the British crown, taxation without representation, and the draconian punishments administered by the British militia.

Hatred (not love) is the great unifier of mankind.


Posted by Marisol Huerta
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 14, 2022 at 11:39 am

Marisol Huerta is a registered user.

"That old Coca Cola TV commercial where people are dressed in their native garb singing, "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony" was both farcical and unrealistic."

^ That Coca Cola song/advertisement promoting mutual global harmony came out in 1971 and given all of the tragic events that have transpired since then, how far have we really evolved as humans?

Technological advancements are one thing...humanity is another.


Posted by Gabriel Estrella
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 15, 2022 at 6:40 am

Gabriel Estrella is a registered user.

I agree that hatred (towards various wrongdoings) is the best way of uniting people in a common cause.

The only problem is that like love, hate is not universal as there are always vested interests at play.

So we are back to square one.


Posted by Eugene Bosch
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 15, 2022 at 8:36 am

Eugene Bosch is a registered user.

It is nearly impossible to be friends with everyone...everybody knows that.


Posted by Johannes Becker
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 15, 2022 at 12:42 pm

Johannes Becker is a registered user.

Personally speaking, I would not want to be friends with everybody as it raises too many false expectations and guilt-ridden obligations.

As others have mentioned, tolerance is the key.

Acceptance and equality are paramount but one should not feel pressured to be friends with people one does not particularly like...for reasons of their own.


Posted by Dolores Campo
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 16, 2022 at 7:39 am

Dolores Campo is a registered user.

'Friends' is a very loosely used term as few people have true friends...most are acquaintances of varying degrees.

To expect the entire world to be 'friends' with each other is a ludicrous expectation and only the delusional promote such an unrealistic ideal.


Posted by Eugenio Miranda Ph.D.
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 16, 2022 at 11:47 am

Eugenio Miranda Ph.D. is a registered user.

Any former colony or country that disdains the cultural and economic influence of the United States or Great Britain is doomed to failure because they lack the academic and capital to proceed successfully on their own.

With the exception of Canada, every country or territory including Afghanistan, Nigeria, Ghana, India/Pakistan, Puerto Rico + countless others are worse off and incapable of self-government due to the high illiteracy rates of their native populations.


Posted by Craig Wiesner
a resident of another community
on Sep 17, 2022 at 11:50 am

Craig Wiesner is a registered user.

As someone who has attended this event many years in the past, and others put together by American Muslim Voice, I can tell you that I have seen incredible success in bringing together people who were strangers and having them leave the event well fed and with new friends. On the subject of the word "tolerance" I'd like to weigh in from my personal perspective, but one that I know is shared by many.

I remember the first time I heard someone say that "tolerance is overrated." That comment resonated with me. As someone who was hated, beaten, and shunned, because of how I presented, my religion, and whom I loved, the idea of being tolerated was certainly a step up. As long as I "stayed in my lane" and behaved myself (perhaps didn't act too gay or kept my Jewish star hidden inside my shirt), perhaps those who hated me would let me live without the threat of violence. OK, I'll take that. Those of you who know Maslow's Hierarchy know that most humans will accept anything to achieve the first two levels of the pyramid, our physiological needs and safety.

But as someone who has lived through, and watched too many others live through, hatred, fear, discrimination, and violence because of who they were, I too feel that we need to go way beyond "tolerance" if we are going to build the beloved community that Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned. We are called to see the divine in each other, the beauty of creation, and celebrate in our differences because, well, it would be boring if we were all exactly the same.

The comment in question was about tolerating people with different opinions. I'd say we are called to go beyond that. Get to know the people with whom we differ, have empathy, and be open to changing our own minds are all worthy goals beyond tolerance.

The 12 year old boy who went home bleeding after being hit with a brick, the 14 year old who got fired for wearing a Star of David, and the adult who lived through decades of hate, wants more than tolerance.


Posted by Derek Layne
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Sep 17, 2022 at 12:21 pm

Derek Layne is a registered user.

"Know thy enemy" and proceed from there as most 'friendships' are conditional and ephemeral.

There is no such thing as true friendship...just ongoing compromises to create an illusion of friendship.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 17, 2022 at 12:24 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

We don't have to be friends with "everyone", but we do have to be friendly to everyone. Being friendly, and being respectful is a two way attitude. It is hard to be friendly when others are being disrespectful. It happens when two parties are unable to agree. We don't have to agree with everyone, but we have to learn to disagree respectfully.

I have seen this a lot on Nextdoor. It is much too easy to show disrespect when it is not deserved or in relation to an issue wehre there is disagreement. Free speech can be respectfully done, but it also has to be respectfully taken. We are different with different opinions, ideals and practices. More often it is nothing to do with ethnicity or background of the individuals but more to do with not accepting a different point of view. We can all do much better at being more respectful of different stands, and should in fact be celebrating that we don't all think alike.


Posted by Samina Sundas
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 17, 2022 at 1:37 pm

Samina Sundas is a registered user.

I would like to thank my neighbors and fellow human beings for taking the time to read the article about our 9/11 Multifaith Peace Picnic. Also greatly appreciate your comments. I would love to invite all of you to join me for a cup of coffee or lunch ( I will treat) for a civil conversation? I would love to share who I am and what I am trying to accomplish in my lifetime on this earth. No debate, just a friendly conversation.

Please email me if you are interested? [email protected]

There are some misunderstandings that can be easily cleared. This was not a political event. This was an event to honor the victims of 9/11, first responders and amazing families who are striving to build peace after losing their loved ones. "September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows"

I would also invite everyone to please join us for our next event in 2023, even if you are on the fence about the effectiveness of these community and peace building events.
I hope all of you will join us with your family and friends.


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