Peace, music and students -- three of Walter Ruehlig's favorite subjects -- will gather for a Saturday event.

The third annual Youth Interfaith Peace Festival, in conjunction with International Day of Peace, is set for 7 p.m. at Antioch's Seventh-day Adventist Sanctuary.

Included in the free event is an array of performances, including the Sufism-Reoriented Meher School Children's Chorus; a Sikh ensemble playing Indian classical music; a combined East County youth choir from the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints; We Mime from Antioch's Grace Bible Fellowship; the top four East County Idol winners (Idara Akpakpa, Andie Paredes, Raina Viscarra and Nicholas Crossen); Antioch Seventh-day Adventist Hilltop Christian School Treble Choir and Hand Bell Ringers; and Divine Voices from Deer Valley High.

Also on the program is the dedication of a hand-carved cedar peace pole, a donation from the Interfaith Peace Project. It is inscribed with Let Peace Prevail on Earth in 12 languages.

"This will be an unforgettable evening," said Ruehlig, event coordinator.

"I have to pinch myself that we were able to assemble this much youth talent -- and for free. Any one of these groups is more than worth coming (to see)."

This is the third year for this big celebration. Previously, the Rev. Tom Bonacci had kept it low-key with "some enthusiasts from the Interfaith Peace Project."

But in 2001, Bonacci asked Ruehlig to bring it to a bigger audience and he eagerly agreed.

Ruehlig explained that on the international stage, it's been a secular event sponsored by the United Nations since 1981.

"In various countries, they may stage parades or symposiums or kite festivals in the name of peace," he said. "Here we thought a pragmatic focal point could be the faith community since we have so many diverse denominations."

The AUSD board member is thrilled to combine many of his delights into one event.

"The quest for universal brotherhood is a lifelong passion of mine. Music is truly the international language and a great leveler," he said.

Over the last few years, Ruehlig has had some beautiful moments, including the time a woman "gushed how it was her first time talking to a Mormon about their religion. She was not alone in breaking boundaries in the crowd of 600."

Ruehlig said this event is relevant to many. "In these tough times, we need occasions to celebrate. And, as a community and nation, we have had our share of discord and tension. Too often (we) stress over the superficial differences ... We need triumph the universal needs of humanity that bind us to the human race.

"We are, after all, one race -- the human race."

Contact Trine Gallegos at trineg@att.net

If you go
What: Youth Interfaith Peace Festival
When: 7 p.m. Sept. 22
Where: Seventh-Day Adventist Sanctuary, 2200 Country Hills Drive, Antioch
Info: 925-756-7628 or e-mail walter.ruehlig@gmail.com
Cost: Free