- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 10, 2008

Thousands of followers of various faiths gathered on the Mall on Saturday evening for the Global Peace Festival, an event to promote cooperation among the world’s religious leaders.

The festival, held on the West Lawn of the Capitol, represents the launch of a long-term initiative by more than 150 faith- and community-based organizations to advocate for peace and unity worldwide.

“We are here to let the world know that we can be together,” said the Rev. Paul Murray, executive director of GPF USA. “It’s all about compassion. It’s all about peace. We can change our world.”

Speakers included D.C. civil rights activist and former D.C. Delegate Walter E. Fauntroy and GPF Chairman Hyun Jin Moon, son of Unification Church founder the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

Mr. Moon is also chairman of News World Communications Inc., parent corporation of The Washington Times.

Several speakers at the festival focused on the common philosophies and goals on which many of the world’s religions are based.

“We are one people and one divine presence,” said speaker the Rev. Marisha Hazzard, a staff minister at the Agape International Spiritual Center in Los Angeles.

Grammy Award-winning Christian music artists Yolanda Adams and David Phelps performed as well as the GPF Interfaith Choir.

Several reconciliations were at the center of the festival. Marita Michael, the mother of a boy who was murdered outside Anacostia High School in Southeast in 2003, embraced Michelle Postell, the mother of her son’s killer.

And Elik Elhanen, an Israeli Jew whose 14-year-old sister was killed during a suicide attack in Jerusalem, connected with Aziz Abu Sarah, whose brother was beaten to death by Israeli soldiers.

Over the past three months the GPF has been partnering with faith-based organizations, nonprofits, youth groups and others in the Washington area and around the country.

Among the organization partners are the Humanities Council in the District, the Interfaith Consortium, the Greater Washington Urban League, the Universal Peace Federation and the Points of Light Institute.

Last week, the GPF organized about 1,000 youths to perform service projects around the District.

There are a total of 17 festivals planned for 2008, including a grand finale in Brazil in late December.

The next festival takes place in Nairobi, Kenya, Aug. 29-31. The first festival was held in the Araneta Coliseum in Manila in 2006.

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