WORLD PEACE ONE FRIENDSHIP AT A TIME-
In recent weeks terror around the world has taken hundreds of lives. However, Wednesday night in Memphis, Tennessee a retired white Christian pastor and a Muslim cardiologist stood tapping their toes as an African American entertainer, Daryl Davis, rolled his fingers along a grand piano playing a boogie-woogie to a very full and diverse room.
They were about to honor this very artist for his ability to make friends out of his adversaries, his ability to build peace between enemies, one friendship at a time, one conversation at a time, by patiently listening. He uses the universal language of music to speak heart to heart.
“We are here to recognize those who make friends under amazing odds,” Dr. Bashar Shala tells the crowd.
“We want to create world peace, one friendship at a time,” said Muslim Dr. Bashar Shala. “We need friendship. When there is so much hate around us, we need friendship. When the country is so divided, we need friendship. When there is racism, prejudice we need friendship. When there is violence, like the massacres we witnessed unfortunately just in the last few weeks in Christchurch, New Zealand and this awful massacre in Sri Lanka” and his voice got quieter and asked the crowd to pray together.
A few moments later Daryl Davis, African-American musician, actor and author, who is best known for befriending leaders of the Ku Klux Klan, was awarded the Memphis Friendship Foundation's first Friendship Award in at a banquet in Memphis Wednesday night (April 24).
Davis of Silver Springs, Md. tells how his lifelong desire to answer a simple question began. “It was beyond me, that someone who knew absolutely nothing about me would want to inflict pain upon me for no other reason than the color of my skin” he said. “How can you hate me, if you don't even know me?
Davis, 61, whose story was the subject of the documentary Accidental Courtesy, says he has befriended more than 200 Klansmen who have subsequently left the group. Davis encourages respectful dialogue and listening to your adversaries.
He displayed one of the KKK robes and hoods he has been given by exiting Klan members, this one given to him by ex-Grand Wizard Roger Kelly. “I did not respect what he had to say, however, I respected his right to say it“ Davis said.
More recently, Davis approached Richard Preston, the KKK imperial wizard that fired the shot during the 2016 white racist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Davis and Preston became good friends, such good friends that Preston and his fiancé asked Davis to fill-in for the fiancé’s father, who couldn't make it to Preston's wedding. Davis walked her down the aisle.
As the evening began, Dr. Bashar Shala, described retired Heartsong pastor Steve Stone as his “best friend.” Shala, and Stone, are the two men at the core of the Memphis Friendship Foundation.
The Memphis Friendship Foundation was created to build friendships among races, cultures, and faiths. It started many years ago when the Heartsong Church, a Christian church, let members of the Islamic Center of Memphis use their building while the Islamic mosque was being built. They have gained national recognition. It has grown into a long- term friendship and partnership between neighbors.
By Karen Pulfer Focht ©
April 24th, 2019