Interfaith Insight - 2022
I think that many “interfaith issues,” like politics as some say, are local – certainly in impact and effect. But there are many larger events and movements that can help inform our local interactions.
One such event, earlier this month, was an under-reported conference at the White House that was intended to be a “first step” to combat extremist hate and violence. The summit, and its message, were largely lost in the flurry of other high-profile news reports, including coverage of the death and memorials of Queen Elizabeth II, the railroad contract settlement, inflation and stock market reports, the war in Ukraine … and more.
According to its website, “United We Stand” was hosted by the president “… to counter the destructive effects of hate-fueled violence on our democracy and public safety, mobilize diverse sectors of society and communities across the country to these dangers, and put forward a shared, inclusive, bipartisan vision for a more united America.”
The event drew “Uniters” who are working in their communities to build bridges and address hate and division. Representatives from across the country heard a national address from the president and participated in “bipartisan panels and conversations on countering hate-fueled violence, preventing mobilization to violence, and fostering unity.”
Even less reported was the role in the summit of representatives from faith communities, including survivors and family members of those lost to mass shootings at houses of worship and those in organizations and congregations working to counteract hate and violence.
According to a Religion News Service (RNS) report, the president intended the summit to address “hate-fueled violence, committing to new and renewed measures to combat hate, including attacks aimed at people of faith. … Federal resources will be allocated, administration officials said, to train people at houses of worship, in workplaces and local law enforcement to identify, report and combat violence linked to hate.”
Rana Singh Sodhi, the brother of Balbir Singh Sodhi, the Sikh man who was mistaken for a Muslim and killed in the days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, was one of those recognized as examples of the universality of grief, but also of love and hope. Said Biden, “The power is within each of us to transform the story of our time to rise together against hate, to show who we are. We are the United States of America. There’s nothing, nothing beyond our capacity.”
Others were honored and provided their own reflections on their experiences and commitments. The RNS report states: “Long before the summit closed with a performance by the Howard University Gospel Choir, Susan Rice, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, said she was struck by the ‘powerful’ comments by faith leaders and survivors. ‘I don’t know about you,’ she said, ‘but I felt like I’d gone to church.’”
There are several things in this event, it seems to me, that are important for us in our various communities of faith here in West Michigan. In addition to simply knowing about the event, its participants and content, we can note — and take advantage of — the initiatives and funding announced at the summit.
Look through the listing of people, efforts and initiatives that are noted, and find your own interest and place in that “universe” of information for involvement here where we live.
One effort is training by organizations like Interfaith America, Habitat for Humanity, the YMCA and others that will provide opportunities to “teach 10,000 Americans how to become bridge builders in their communities.” We, individuals and congregations, can find out where and how we might be involved — and those locally with whom we can connect.
I encourage you to review the “Engagement Tool Kit” that United We Stand provides. In addition to efforts to make sure that our congregations’ facilities and services are safe and secure, there are simple things each of us can do that are preventative in nature.
And, without too much apology, I urge you to consider your active involvement in the presentations and activities of the Kaufman Interfaith Institute. You see them listed each week in this email or any time at our website.
As Melissa Rogers, executive director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, reported to a conference the other day that several of us attended, the president’s “summary of that day is one word: ‘Possibilities!’”
That is an encouragement that is wonderfully “local.”