Interfaith group gathers in silence for peace

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Amanda Maloney of Brighton Heights was riding her bike past Point State Park shortly after noon Wednesday when she saw a large circle of people, standing in silence and holding bright carnations. When she learned it was a peace vigil, she joined the circle.

“It is so beautiful that people are holding a space for the creation of peace in their hearts,” she said afterward. “I do think this does have a profound impact on the world, whether people realize it or not.”

About 45 people gathered for the interfaith vigil, which deliberately avoided partisan remarks or sectarian prayers. The Rev. Liddy Barlow, executive minister of Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania, opened the gathering with brief remarks before ringing a bell to mark the beginning of a 15-minute vigil.

“We pray that our silence will help to silence all voices of hatred and violence,” she said.

The event was cosponsored by Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Area Jewish Committee, the Pittsburgh chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.

As the group stood quietly on the lawn, the sounds of rumbling traffic and chirping birds mingled in the background. Pedestrians out for a noontime walk or jog passed by.

Rev. Barlow said afterward that the vigil was timed in part to commemorate the anniversary of the Aug. 6, 1945, U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima, and more immediately to mark the Gaza war and other ongoing warfare in the Middle East and Ukraine.

The Gaza war, she said, had left people deeply polarized. “I was feeling the need as a person of faith simply to gather and mourn the loss of life,” she said.

Karen Hochberg, executive director of the Pittsburgh Area Jewish Committee, agreed.

“People are so in need of just a moment to share common humanity,” she said, adding that such vigils “can lay the groundwork for deeper conversations that we can have later.”

Safdar Khwaja, president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Pittsburgh branch, said the event served to remind people not to dehumanize others.

“It's very important for people to respect the humanity of whoever they might be in conflict with,” he said. “That gets completely lost.”

Peter Smith: petersmith@post-gazette or 412-263-1416.

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