A walk for peace brings students together

Top Left, Anusha Abbas Senior, Applied Biological Sciences; Top right Fara Arefi Sophomore Applied Biological Sciences; Bottom left Gabe Leon Freshman, Sustainability and Applied Botanical Sciences; John Martin Senior, Religion, Public Life & Conflict The Better Together Group at ASU works towards spreading the message that we are all truly at our best when we set our differences aside and come together. Top left, Anusha Abbas Senior, Applied Biological Sciences; Top right Fara Arefi Sophomore Applied Biological Sciences; Bottom left Gabe Leon Freshman, Sustainability and Applied Botanical Sciences; John Martin Senior, Religion, Public Life & Conflict.

They all wear blue.

A peaceful and tranquil color.

They are all students of different genders, races and religions.

They stand united in blue.

Though the group is small in number, their message is big and powerful.

Together, they walk around Arizona State University's Tempe campus to promote peace and coexistence.

In honor of Sunday's International Day of Peace, ASU's Sun Devils are Better Together program held a peace walk Friday, Sept. 19.

The program's president and founder, John Martin, says Sun Devils are Better Together is part of the Interfaith Youth Core, an organization that promotes the message that society is better when united for a common goal.

"What we are trying to do here at ASU is show people we can engage across the lines of difference," Martin says. "We can bring a diverse group of people together and find shared values and common goals within that group, no matter their racial or religious differences."

"We want to demonstrate that as Sun Devils, and as people, we are better together," Martin says.

Friday's peace walk was in conjunction with a week of activities as a part of Project Humanities' fall series "Humanity 101: Creating a Movement" at ASU.

Project Humanities director Neal Lester says the goal of the program is to answer one question: Are we losing our humanity?

"This is about the counter-notion that we, as a society, have lost all connection with humanity," Lester says. "We want to bring people together to engage in talking, listening and connecting with others."

"The idea is that we want to remind people about our humanity, even though planes are being shot down and people are being beheaded," he says. "We want to make people not feel the sense of helplessness."

The weeklong series of events ranged from a contest to find ASU's funniest teacher to a "hackathon" in which community members formed teams to develop socially minded mobile apps that adhere to the seven principles.

Humanity 101 hones in on seven ideals that Project Humanities is promoting awareness for: respect, kindness, integrity, empathy, forgiveness, compassion and self-reflection.

"These seven values, we believe, are essential to personal and professional success," Martin says.

Both organizations, though different, share the common goal of connecting people and blurring lines of difference in order to create a society that incorporates the seven ideals into everyday life.

Though the peace walk did not have a large turnout, those who attended were very passionate about their cause and about creating a campus, and a world, in which people can coexist.

Applied biological sciences senior Anusha Abbas walked with the hope of eradicating religious conflicts.

"It's really about being your own faith and having your own identity and being able to co-engage and work together with others to promote peace," Abbas says.

"The media often propagates these stereotypes of Muslims and Jews having conflicts," Abbas says. "What this program does is create a platform to build bonds that change viewpoints. Instead of thinking of stereotypes you'll think of the friend that you made."

"It's up to us to rewrite our narrative," Abbas says. "We want people to keep an open mind, build relationships and give everyone a chance."

Applied biological sciences sophomore Faranaz Arefi also walked that day.

Arefi is working to bring the club to the Polytechnic campus, with the long-term goal to spread it to all four campuses.

"It's really helped to bring religious unity to the campus," she says. "There are these universal conflicts, but our goal is to understand the other side and build bridges so that we can all peacefully coexist."

Reach the writer at Alexa.Dangelo@asu.edu or via Twitter @andangelo15.


Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.