Over 600 people filled the room at the eighth Annual Celebration Gala of the We Are Family Foundation on October 26, 2010 in New York. This annual gala is a way for the foundation to honour people who have made a significant contribution to the efforts of peace.The Mattie J T Stepanek Peacemaker Award is given in memory of Mattie, the remarkable, young boy whose whose wisdom and poetry have won the hearts of millions. Bob Dragotta, who serves on the foundation's board, describes the event:
Among the honourees were Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye for their work of peacemaking in Nigeria and other parts of Africa. Dr Jeni Stepaniek, the mother of Mattie, introduced the Imam and the Pastor. “Peace is possible especially in the name of religion,” she said, quoting her son. “We must pray differently yet together…Just as God by all names was smiling and is smiling with us and is smiling on these two men who seek and make and bring peace to so many, I can’t think of any better recipients for this than the Pastor and Imam.”
I’ve been involved with WAFF from its inception when Nile Rodgers, who wrote and recorded the hit song We Are Family decided to re-record it after 9-11 with the hope of uniting people and combating the hatred and prejudice that was so visceral at the time. WAFF has done some incredible work, laying seeds of peace with young adults around the globe.
As the foundation grew, I became part of the board and have thought so many times that IofC and WAFF needed to know of each other but I was never able to make the connection. However, God has his own plan about bringing people together.
Nile Rodgers and Nancy Hunt, co-founders of the We Are Family Foundation, asked me to be the host for Imam Ashafa and Pastor Wuye. When they asked, I did not remember that I had met these men several years ago at a screening of the film The Imam and the Pastor at the UN.
It was therefore such a joy to see Charles and Kathy Aquilina from the Washington IofC office walking into the Hammerstein Pavilion in Manhattan to attend the gala. As I was greeting them, a limousine pulled up with Imam Ashafa and Pastor Wuye, and Charles introduced me to them. At that moment, it all came flooding back and I realized that God had intervened.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of my first encounter with Initiatives of Change. Since that time I have constantly been amazed at the guidance that the Holy Spirit has given to me and so many of my friends. As Rajmohan Gandhi told me in 1988, we just have to listen to that “still small voice within.” Sometimes I do and many times I do not; however, my awareness is becoming more acute.
The We Are Family Foundation continues its work now with the helping hand of these two incredible peacemakers from Nigeria.