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Faith communities find unity through organized walk

Citizen Staff Writer



Open dialogue among Muslims, Jews and other religious groups remains the main objective of the annual Tucson Muslim-Jewish PeaceWalk, which celebrates its fifth year Sunday.

The walk helps educate participants, said 67-year-old Fayez Swailem, a University of Arizona radiology professor who was raised a Muslim and is one of the organizers.

Every year about 200 to 300 people from Tucson and throughout the state come here for the PeaceWalk.

“I feel very good. They know me, I know them. We are praying together for hope to solve problems,” Swailem said. “We are building bridges together.

“There are ways we can resolve issues with peace rather than using the military or force,” Swailem said.

The PeaceWalk, a nonprofit organization, arose from the Jewish-Muslim Interfaith PeaceWalk initiated in April 2002 by Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb and Abdul Rauf Campos Marquetti, both of Albuquerque, N.M.. It was a response to the aftermath of 9/11.

Julius Gordon, 71, of Tucson, who is Jewish and a former walk organizer, said he and his wife, Grace, 51, saw Americans needed to pressure their government to do everything possible to improve conditions for Palestinians and Israelis in the Middle East.

Senobar Tafazoli, 67, of Iran arrived in Tucson in 1978 and has been a Muslim since roughly 1980.

“It (PeaceWalk) is a nice gesture,” Tafazoli said. “And people – the Jews and Muslims and anyone else – can get along and work together.”

Each Friday, she attends the Mosque of Tucson, 250 W. Speedway Blvd.

Through the years, Tafazoli has worked with others to bring together the interfaith community.

About 14 years ago, she helped launch a soup kitchen and group at the Casas Adobes Congregational Church, which included volunteers from Tucson faith communities.

Tafazoli decided about three years ago to form a 10-person New Testament discussion group made up of Christians, Muslims and Jews.

“The Quran is very inclusive and I have tried to be very inclusive,” Tafazoli said.

She works with the Catholic charity organization St. Vincent de Paul Society and helps to bag food at a local Catholic church.

The walk is not limited to Muslims and Jews, said Tucsonan Dina Afek, 51, who was raised Jewish and is one of the PeaceWalk’s co-founders.

She said the event is open to the public and other faith communities.

She said that distinguishes the PeaceWalk from other interfaith walks.

“We can’t make peace in Israel and Palestine,” Afek said, “but we can show it is possible to get to know each other.”


• What: Fifth annual Muslim-Jewish PeaceWalk

• When: 1-6 p.m. Sunday

• Where: The event starts at 1 p.m. at the Islamic Center of Tucson, 901 E. First St., a block west of Park Avenue. It ends at 3 p.m. at Congregation Ner Tamid, the Water of Life campus, 3269 N. Mountain Ave., north of Fort Lowell Road.

• Activities: Children’s arts and crafts and adult and teen writing workshops and a post-walk vegetarian dinner are slated to begin about 3 p.m. at Ner Tamid.

• Price: free

• Info: www.PeaceWalkTucson.org; Dina Afek at 404-1988

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