Richland rally sends peace message to end week of tragedies

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldApril 19, 2013 

— Hardly a minute went by on the corner of Knight Street and George Washington Way in Richland when the 20 or so people gathered there Friday didn't receive a honk, a wave or a shout from the passing traffic.

Holding up signs emblazoned with "Standing on the side of LOVE," along with a few handmade ones with phrases such as "Love Not Fear," members of the Tri-Cities Interfaith Alliance came out to remind that we all need to love, support and include one another in our lives.

"He won the enthusiasm award," joked Craig Moro, minister for Community Unitarian Universalist Church of Pasco, about one particularly vocal passer-by.

After such a tragic week, with people dead and injured following bombings and accidental explosions, and an entire East Coast city frozen by a manhunt, organizers said this was a good time to send their message. They were glad to see and hear it embraced.

"It's just amazing how many people are interacting," said Tarlok Singh Hundal, a member of the Sikh temple Gurdwara Guru Nanak Parkash, also in Pasco.

Standing On the Side of Love is an interfaith initiative begun by a Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., after a man killed two people and wounded seven others in the church in July 2008 in a politically motivated attack. It has spread to other churches and communities as a reminder to fight fear with love, organizers said.

This is the first year that the event has been recognized in the Tri-Cities, organizers said. The group that gathered in Richland was made up of Unitarians, Sikhs and parishioners from Shalom United Church of Christ in Richland, and the Islamic Center of the Tri-Cities in West Richland.

Though it was planned weeks in advance, organizers said Friday was a good day to remind people of the need to be accepting and loving toward one another. Organizer and Unitarian John Dorian said he was impressed with the reaction the rally received.

"We're showing the Tri-Cities there's people with compassion within our community," he said.

In addition to the tragedies in Boston and Texas, organizers said there were other occurrences this week that show the need for more acceptance. Dorian referenced the decision by the Boy Scouts of America to possibly accept gay youth members but not gay adult leaders. There also have been hateful and cruel things said in reaction to the week's events, and Moro, who actually lives in Salem, said people need to reject that.

"This (event) says come out and come together, don't crawl away and hide," he said.

Hundal said that recent events have devastated the world but that we have to rise from them and that in the end goodness and light will prevail.

"It's for the right cause to be on the side of love," he said, as he waved at passing cars.

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