Imam Syed B. Soharwardy is the first Muslim to walk from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean - covering more than 6500 kilometres - to raise awareness about the dangers of violence. He walked as the lead walker of the Multifaith Walk Against Violence.
In a statement today Imam Soharwardy said, “During this walk, I met hundreds of Canadians. They welcomed me into their homes and city halls, in rural Canada and urban Canada, on highways and places of worship. Among them were the people of the First Nation, Christians, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslims, Atheists, Hindus, Sikhs, Baha’is Unitarians, etc… I am very thankful for their hospitality and encouragement”.
Through this walk we made a commitment that we would not be told, cajoled or threatened by those within our faiths to accept the idea that our religion justifies violence. We will not passively accept the judgment that it is “normal”, “part of the culture” and (therefore) excusable when members of other faiths become victims of abuse. Most of all, we will not dismiss any victims of violence/abuse as somehow deserving of this treatment. We are our fellow man, and to allow abuse without united protest or action diminishes us all. Violence has no place in any religion.
Now we have begun discussions with faith leaders and representatives across Canada about the possibility of an annual Multifaith Walk against violence. Imam Soharwardy may have "walked the walk", but this is only the beginning of his awareness campaign.
During this walk Imam Syed Soharwardy received endorsements and support from a number of faith and community leaders. Canadians from across the country sent messages of thanks and appreciation. The following are some of the comments from Canadians of different faiths.
The principal of Royal Military College of Canada, Dr. John Cowan wrote an Op-Ed column in the Kingston Whig-Standard in May 2008 wrote:
“….. It's hard to doubt the genuineness of his efforts. His personal commitment has been extraordinary; he mortgaged his home to finance the Walk Against Violence. Furthermore, he has a proven track record in opposing violence and is the founder of Muslims Against Terrorism………….. Every now and then since 9/11, there have been musings in the media about why the moderate or antiviolence voices in the Muslim community weren't louder or more explicit. Well, you couldn't get much more explicit than Syed Soharwardy…… Soharwardy is very Canadian. He thinks and talks a lot about his love of Canada and his admiration for its values. And, like other Canadians, he's been struggling to understand their precise application. But unlike so many, he's paid his dues, and when his Multi-Faith Walk Against Violence passes through Kingston, he deserves a hearing”.
- Rabbi Daniel Elkin of Beth Israel Congregation, in Kingston Ontario said, “ …. Syed Soharwardy has inspired me to do the same what he did in Canada, organize a multifaith walk against violence in Israel.”
- Rev. Bob McLeod from Alabama, USA wrote, “Hats off to you Syed! How do we get a contribution to you? You remain in our prayers”.
- Rev. Ed Prinselaar from Thunder Bay Ontario said, “The Walk and the awareness it has created. Hope to apply the lesson it contains for our community”.
- Rev. Frank Allen: “Syed, I have been following your progress since walking with you for the short distance to the highway from Amherst, N.S. and I keep your task in my prayers. It seems like the support continues to grow and you remain as strong in your commitment as when I met you. Know that I think of you and the work of your group”.
- Rabbi Howard Voss-Altman of Calgary: “Mazal tov and congratulations on the completion of your historic walk. It is my hope to see Syed upon his return and to invite him to address our synagogue on a Shabbat evening. We look forward to hearing about this extraordinary experience L’shalom”.
- Howard Wideman from Ontario: “Way to go. Good message Canada needs to hear. Met your camper near Iron Bridge”.
- Iman Al Ghafari from Toronto: “Thank you for the effort you've done for building peace and stopping violence. May Allah reward you for what you've done and bring peace among all His people”.
- Rev. J. McRee (Mac) Elrod from Victoria: “Thank you to those of who turned out is such great numbers to welcome Imam Syed. This event marked several mile stones for us”.
- Laura Solvason from Kelowna: “I saw a segment on CHBC news and I wanted to say thank you for your vision and drive to make our world a tolerant and better place. God bless you for your drive to make our world safer and educate those that try to make our differences separate us as one body under the same sky.
- Major Singh Nagra of Ontario wrote, “We are really amazed and hope to join in Ontario”.
- Mark Braden of Calgary wrote, “I’m sure the good vibes will be coming. Our Minister is going to incorporate Syed’s journey and goals into an upcoming sermon and his brochures are being distributed around our church. Hopefully just the beginning”
- Dr. Mir Mumtaz Ali, Johnston County, Smithfield, North Carolina wrote, “Best of luck to the IMAM for this Noble cause. May Allah ,Almighty God give Ajar (reward) to him, and his efforts I hope and pray would give a Good name to Islam which preaches Non Violence, unless one is attacked then one has a right to defend”.
- Munawar Merchant from Toronto, Ontario wrote, “Congratulation. People don't realize what service the walker has done for the Muslims in Canada”.
- Jim Damico wrote,” Mike and I were the two cyclists that passed you on the bridge between Nipigon and Rossport. I put a link to your site on my blog WanderingTheWorld.com I know we didn't get a chance to talk but good luck and stay safe out there on the road”.
- Patricia Brownlee, Women in Black and Women’s Multi Faith: “Blessings to Syed: You are so close to home now. Many are sending healing prayers for you. I was hoping to come and meet up in Maple Creek area of the return”.
- Diane Janzen: “Project Ploughshares Calgary has sent out the information about the Multifaith Walk and the events around it in Calgary to our networks and supporters and so we hope that several of them will come out to join Syed”
- Qazi Bashiruddin, Hamilton, Ontario: “Congratulations .May God bless you all with health, strength and sustain your will and abilities to successfully accomplish the desired goals. Amen”.
- Ross Morrissey: “We live in Seattle, Washington, but we would like to join the walk to support Mr. Soharwardy and the movement to stop violence for at least a mile when he reaches Vancouver, BC.”
- Susan from Calgary: “.... I hear that he only has 2 pairs of shoes for this colossal walk across Canada. I am going to work very hard to get him a sponsorship from …. I want to get started on this tomorrow and save Syed's feet and hips from injury”.
- Jackie from Sudbury: “I saw the news in Sudbury tonight, and you are really on to something! All faiths joining together for peace! Can I join the walk tomorrow June 20th? Where will he be?
- Tonia from Edmonton wrote,” I am so proud of what he (Imam Syed) is doing for peace”.
- Rev. Tara Livingston of Calgary said, “Syed you are an inspiration for all of us. Thanks for walking for us”.
- Paul Armstrong from Calgary wrote, “Congratulations on the walk. It has been a tremendous undertaking!!”
- Willemien Prinselaar from Thunder Bay wrote, “The "Walk" must continue in the hearts and minds of people of good will. The idea to make this an annual event has our full support. Like the time we met with Syed, we will start the walk at the Terry Fox monument”.
- Right Rev. Bill Phipps and his wife Carolyn walked with Imam Syed when he was walking near Gull Lake, Saskatchewan. Rev. Phipps wrote, “Hi Syed, CONGRATULATIONS !!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are an inspiration forCanada. In our various presentations across Canada, we told your story, then stopped at the Terry Fox monument at Thunder Bay, thinking of you and your amazing vision, not to mention athletic ability!!”
- Katherine Dedyna of Times Colonist in Victoria wrote, “Soharwardy's walk had its roots in a meeting of an inter-faith group two years ago, where participants voiced dismay about rising violence. He suggested a walk emulating Terry Fox to get in touch with ordinary people about the dangers of violence. Unable to find a sponsor, he mortgaged his house and took a leave of absence from work”.
- The Very Rev Robert Pynn of Calgary said, "I want to thank Syed for revealing to us the heart of Islam. Syed says there is no place for violence in religion."
- The Calgary Herald editorial board member, Naomi Lakritz wrote in her Op-Ed column, “Where else but Canada does an imam walk across the country, practising a tenet of the Jewish faith? Some days, it seems like peace may not be such an impossible dream after all”.
- Rev. Shawn Ankenmann, Brandon, Manitoba wrote on his blog, “ ..Syed is not looking for money ... he is not looking for fame ... he is looking for like minded people who share is abhorrence of violence, and who, like him want to see our world become a better place with more than just an absence of conflict and violence ... in the fullest spirit of Shalom/Salaam/Peace, Syed seeks a God given peace that surpasses all understanding, and transforms our world into the place, God willing it could and should be ...
One step at a time, this gentle man is doing his part ... and he is inspiring others to do the same ... Thanks for stopping by Syed ... it was good to meet you ... and it was a joy and a treat to host you andHassaan, Yassir and Haris in my home ... Go with God !!”
- Deborah Gyapong wrote on her blog, “…And I would like to believe he really is trying to show some leadership to the Canadian Muslim community in his vocal stand against terrorism in the name of Islam”.
- Lloyd Mackey of CanadianChristianity.com wrote, “While he appreciated the support he has received from many Christian leaders, Soharwardy allowed that there is more building work to do”.
- John Whidden: Congratulations on completing your walk and opening up so much positive dialogue between people of varied backgrounds. Colleen and I admire you for your tenacity and passion in revealing the true face of Islam.
For more comments and news stories about the Multifaith Walk Against Violence, please visit http://www.m-a-t.org/theimam.htm.
With respect to finances, due to financial constraints the budget for the walk was reduced significantly. However, it still costs $164,78.78. Imam Soharwardy funded this walk by re- mortgaging his family house. Ordinary Canadians and his close friends gave him some donations but he still needs to pay off $97,603.15. Imam Soharwardy is planning to pay for some of the debt by selling the motor-home.
Imam Syed Soharwardy thanks all the volunteers and their families for their help and support. He could not have completed this huge endeavour without you.
One person who deserves our deepest thanks is our communication and public relations director, Linda Zachri. Linda kept everybody informed and worked with the media and the public ensuring timely response to all the inquiries. She was the backbone of this project.
Imam Soharwardy would also like to thank the media organizations who took the time to report on this historic walk. The walk was covered by most major Canadian media sources. In addition, several Op-Ed columns were written by prominent Canadians in various newspapers and blogs. Without your support we could not have achieved our goals.
We would like to thank all Canadians who lent us their support. Some have walked with the walkers, or met them along the way. Some, like Don Biffin, Alex Boyd, Dave Gale, Jennifer, Ayaz Khan and Abdul Hameed helped in the initial planning and organization. Some, like Bishop Fred Henry, Munir Subhani, Malik Afzal, Tariq Bhatti, Anis Rehman, Dr. Michael Prior, Keith Newman, Lathief, Dr. Khalid Rao, Len Perry, Malik Ashraf, Ashfaque Syed, Karima Ramji, Sarf Ahmed and several other Canadians provided guidance and helped in organizing programs. Some, like Mustufa, Shahzada Hameed, Mohsin, Waqas, Asghar, Babar, Naveed, Yasir, Sheikh Zaheer drove motor-home. Some, like Haris Saleh, Mahmood, Masood, Osman, Hamza, Dr. Imtiaz, Salim Farouqe, Haider Khan, Dr. Niaz, Mohiuddin, Ch. Rauf, Imam Nasir walked and arranged food for the walkers. Some, like Pete Vere in Ontario, looked out for the welfare of the walkers at a time when it was particularly needed. Some, undeterred by language barriers, like our dear Suzanne and Audree from Quebec, have taken the time to write periodic notes of encouragement while some, like Dr. Allen Wells in Sarnia Ontario, have helped with the language and cultural divide as interpreters and emergency contact/resource persons.
Last but not least, we would like to thank all who took the trouble to write, cheer on the walkers and help to spread the word of the Multifaith Walk: you all made a difference. We thank you all.
Walk in peace,
Multi-Faith Walk Against Violence
Phone: 1-877-WALK ALL