Over a million people worldwide marched in protest this weekend. The incredible message of unity, despite differences, is being overshadowed by vulgarity.
News reporters, showcasing the tasteless and the rude, are doing their jobs and seeking to boost ratings. Some celebrities are even using coarse and offensive antics just to get attention.
As I spoke with the women in my life who marched this weekend, the sense of degradation and tearing-down too often seen this last year in politics and in media, was simply not there. Instead, I heard love. The women I know marched because they have love for others and they care about the future of this world.
What a historic weekend this was. Over a million people, from around the world, joined together in unity to express that this world can be a better place.
Stacey is one of the most passionate and compassionate women I know. She could not be kept at home when she feels so strongly, “Our country deserves a leader that not only respects women, but respects all Americans.” She wants a world where everyone is respected.
Korlu is an immigrant from Africa and her passionate defense of people, in all walks of life led her, too, to join in the Washington D.C. walk.
“I felt powerless and alone in my fear. I felt for all those men and women of color, poverty, illness, hopelessness. I knew going would be healing. I wanted to be an example for my children that just staying silent can be just as toxic as the injustice itself. [Being there at the march] was like being wrapped in love. Thousands of people that have each other’s back. Not since childbirth have I felt more like the strongest woman on earth.”
These women don’t know each other, yet they were both in Washington D.C. because they want to show a message of unity and love. With over a million people involved, there will not be a consensus on any one ‘right’ way to do anything, but there is a consensus that we need to do things together and with kindness.
Sunday evening, I was privileged to gather with seventy other women for the first gathering of the Philadelphia Interfaith Visionary Women’s Council. Diverse women gathered, from the ages of sixteen to ninety-three, from religions as diverse as Judaism, to Muslim, to Sikh, to Buddhism, to numerous Christian faiths, including my own Mormon faith. Each of us there to share our own stories of faith to strengthen each other in the ongoing battle against division, hatred, and ignorance.
In the application process, we were asked to share our hopes for this council—what do we hope to achieve as we meet together? Responses were as varied as the women who wrote them:
“My dream would be to see all women of all walks of life empower one another as we seek to embrace both our similarities and differences. As women, we have much power that can change the world, if we work together as one unified group.”
“… by gaining a deeper understanding of other religious communities, we will learn more about our own religion and its meaning in our own lives …”
“Whenever I am in interfaith settings, I feel the fullness of God. I feel that Imageo Deo is only complete when all races, cultures, and faiths are represented.”
“I don’t think that we’ll be able to heal unless we do the internal spiritual healing that all religion, at its best, calls us to do.”
“I truly believe the purpose of all faiths is the teaching of the common values of goodness, kindness, and decency that we hold as human beings.”
We listened to each other share stories about how each of us came to appreciate our own faith. The dialogue was open and respectful. By listening, we learned. By learning, we understood. With understanding came respect.
Did you know that Muslims revere many teachers throughout time and believe that Jesus Christ was a teacher, bringing people to Allah (Arabic word for God)? I did not. Sixteen-year-old Husnaa taught me of her faith. I believe that Jesus Christ is the master teacher and His teachings do bring me closer to God. On that we can agree. We will not agree on all theology, but we can understand. With understanding comes respect.
Women shared experiences of standing up for what they believe in and staying true to that truth that burns within each of our hearts. The sharing made me realize, I too, could stand with more courage for my own truth.
Margaret D. Nadauld, a leader in my faith taught:
The world has enough women who are tough;
We need women who are tender.
There are enough women who are coarse;
We need women who are kind.
We have enough women of fame and fortune;
We need more women of faith.
We have enough greed
We need more goodness.
We have enough vanity,
We need more virtue.
We have enough popularity,
We need more purity.
We need more everyday acts of kindness. We need to reach out with love to everyone we meet. We need to be brave enough to act according to the truth within each of us, even if it’s not popular.
As we closed our time together, everyone closed their eyes and took a breath, assessing what one word best captured this time of open, respectful sharing.
Let us continue the lessons learned this weekend. Let us link arms together. We are strong enough to allow differences. Let us allow someone to be different, yet still embrace them as a fellow journeyman on this path of life. Let us, together, make this world a better place.
By Elizabeth M. Latey
Public Affairs Assistant Director in Social Media
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints