(Sept. 19, 2001)--A pathway winds down stone stairs through the garden, over a bridged stream to the gazebo decorated with pale lavender and white flowers.

It all seems surreal. At the end of last week, at the brink of war, I attended a wedding.

Cultural clashes during such a crisis can challenge multicultural marriages. Some don't survive.

This one will, God willing. It is being forged by two families familiar to struggle and success; prayer and perseverance.

Kimia Ali is a businesswoman originally from East Africa. Her family is Muslim. Her groom is financial analyst Floyd Green Jr. of Mississippi. His family is Christian.

In the best of circumstances, this couple would have raised a few eyebrows in both communities, though intercultural marriages are not uncommon.

But in the midst of a week filled with senseless death and acrid rage, I feel the need one more time to ask---is the wedding on?

Yes, Kimia said with a laugh.

And so a few dozen people dust off horror and trepidation to don a translucent cloak of optimism and hope for this lovely couple.

Some of Kimia's relatives and friends didn't make it into the country because the terrorist attacks prevented international air travel.

Still, she is in reasonably good spirits. She's known war, loss and exodus. She's been through it all and survived with the help of a large, loving family. Now in her 30s, Kimia is getting married.

The pianist plays romantic songs like "Wind Beneath My Wings." An usher in a purple wrap skirt hands out a program and says, "Sit anywhere," on either side. Muslims and Christians, Americans and Africans, whites, blacks and others, slowly fill the rows with subdued joy.

However, one former serviceman, in his 50s or 60s, begins to discuss the proper response for the terrorist attacks.


He tried to re-enlist, he says, but he was too old.

"I want to go," he says. "We need to bomb them." He never makes eye contact with anyone except his friends, nodding politely. He goes on even after the processional music begins.

His outburst changes the mood. But most in the audience were taught to respect their elders, even the rude ones. Unease and anger dissipate into the blue Georgia skies.

After all, we didn't come here to argue or debate.

The wedding is a mixture of traditional American (the wedding dress), Muslim (the imam officiates), Christian (a dear friend of the bride reads a biblical passage for the invocation) and Oromo (African dancers who lead the bride's processional after the bridesmaids are escorted to their place by the groomsmen).

Kimia is calm, sure and radiant in her gown. Floyd beams next to the imam. The mothers-in-law sit quietly and thoughtfully in opposite corners.

A note on the Ali-Green wedding program reads in part: "We thank God/Allah for bringing us together."

Many will have a problem with a Muslim woman marrying outside of her religion, but it happens.

Kimia and Floyd are armed with faith rooted in experience and support tested by divisiveness.

All couples should be so blessed.

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