The Words of the Cutts Family
An Atlanta lawyer who attended the Global Peace Festival August 9 in Washington, DC, returned home to organize service activities to bring together local young people for the sake of peace. As a federal attorney and founder of the mentoring group “Brother to Brother,” Sheila Arnum had seen the effect that divisions in society have on young people, and the Global Peace Festival gave her new hope.
In preparation for the October 7 Global Peace Festival in Atlanta, Mrs. Arnum organized weekly opportunities for young people to make friends with people they would not ordinarily meet and experience the joy of doing good for others. The Saturday before the festival, 400 people young and old alike came together to clean Washington Park in Atlanta, working harmoniously as a sea of blue “Global Peace Festival” T-shirts.
Atlanta’s Global Peace Festival took place on October 7 in the 2,600-seat sanctuary of the Church In The Now in Conyers, Georgia. Bishop Jim Swilley and Pastor Debye Swilley were the host and hostess to this spectacular Atlanta event.
The emcee for the evening was Senator Steen Miles, host of a television program and an ordained minister. Rev. Paul Murray, Executive Director of GPF-USA and Pastor of the Apostolic Lighthouse Church in Glen Burnie, Maryland, introduced the festival and a video report of events in Paraguay, Kenya, Mongolia, and Washington, DC.
Atlanta and three other American cities were selected to host festivals in October. The Steering Committee included Bishop Swilley, Pastor Swilley, Senator Miles, Minister Steven Muhammad, Pastor Mark Abernathy, Rev. Tom Cutts, Sheila Arnum, Rev. Dr. Gloria Wright, and Ambassador Ted Britton.
The audience was drawn together and uplifted through music. The Manga African Dance troupe of dancers and drummers performed in colorful costumes, with powerful rhythms and athletic prowess. Then Prophet Emil Holder blew the shofar, and David Phelps sang the National Anthem accompanied by a violinist and pianist.
Three representatives of the Abrahamic faiths came onto the stage to offer prayers for the family, for compassion and service, and for peace -- the three pillars of the Global Peace Festival. Archbishop George Augustus Stallings, Co-President of the American Clergy Leadership Conference and Founder of the Imani Temple in Washington, DC, spoke about the importance of family. Imam Hamad Chebli, Imam of the Islamic Society of Central New Jersey, spoke on compassion and service. Finally, Rabbi Mordecai Waldman from Michigan mentioned that it was fitting for this event to take place the day before Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.
The day after these leaders from Christianity, Islam, and Judaism embraced one another and committed to building a world of peace, one person reported, “I woke up this morning still in awe of seeing all of the different faiths coming together and praying together.”
Local vocalist Chandra Currelley sang with the Church In The Now choir, followed by a 13-year-old rapper, Little “D” Wheeler. Then Marita Michael and Michelle Postellf from Washington, DC, shared their experience of reconciliation and healing. Michelle’s son killed Marita’s son in gang-related violence, and the two mothers talked about how God led them to find forgiveness and acceptance and they began to see each other’s children as their own. Rappers Judah Swilley and Scott Pettite continued the family theme with their original song, “One Family under God.”
A special, interfaith “water ceremony” followed, moderated by Rev. Michael Jenkins, chairman of UPF-USA. Fourteen representatives of various faith traditions came to the podium, each holding a bowl of water. The water symbolized the spiritual treasures of their faith. One by one, they poured their water into a common bowl, thus sharing their treasures, all which come from one God. The faiths represented included Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. When people started pouring their water into the one vessel showing the unity of one family under God, one participant reported, “Tears started flowing. This is a new day!” From this symbolic ceremony, another person gained the insight that “living water lives in each one of us" and that it was a time to let that living water flow.
“To have people from all of those nations in our house is what this is all about,” commented one member of the Church In The Now. “The Holy Spirit filled the house and fed our souls on all levels. I am so honored and blessed to have a bishop with the global vision to lead us on this journey.”
Pastor Debye Swilley envisions others taking up the baton and good news of true peace as the Global Peace Festival continues across the United States to Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York.
Former US Congressman Earl F. Hilliard from Alabama introduced Dr. Hyun Jin Moon, the keynote speaker. “The dream to build ‘One Family under God’ is not the dream of just one man, woman, or family but belongs to all humanity, and most of all, to God,” Dr. Moon said. “As my father explained in one of his recent peace messages, ‘God, the Creator of all things under the sun, is the true parent of all humanity. He is not a parent in the parochial sense, existing only for a certain religion, a certain race, or the residents of a certain region.’ You may call Him by any name, be it Jehovah, Allah, Heaven, or any other. What is important is that He certainly exists, lives as the true parent of all people, and is carrying on the great work of Creation.”
“This challenged me to want to make a difference in this world, more now than ever before,” one person said later; “if this world is going to change, it will change one family at a time.”
When the speakers and performers returned to the stage to sing and celebrate being “One Family Under God,” many people in the audience resonated with the family spirit. For one person, it brought back distant memories as a six-year-old singing about the family of God: “Somehow my child's mind saw a vision then similar to what was seen by many last night.” Another person said, "A decaying dream of peace has been resurrected by the Spirit of the Living God and manifested in the spirit of all who shared in the Global Peace Festival this evening. I have seen the Kingdom of God. For this I was born.”
Even the children caught the spirit of the event. Upon returning home, a nine-year-old child offered to lead the family’s bedtime prayer and prayed for peace in their home and in the world.