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By Beth Broadway, Executive Director, and Millicent Davis, Board President
InterFaith Works has a 34-year history and commitment to religious freedom, interfaith understanding, and social justice. The recent anti-Muslim climate, spurred in part by the proposed construction of an Islamic Center close to Ground Zero, and resulting in the stabbing of a New York City taxi driver because he is Muslim, the movement in Tennessee to ban the construction of all mosques, and the threat of the public burning of the Quran by a self-described Christian, are deeply troubling to us.
As our nation approaches the ninth anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the Twin Towers, we are aware that many Americans are understandably re-living the horror, sorrow, and rage that accompanied this assault on our country. We remember the hours, days, and weeks following the tragedy as a time when Americans came together across faiths, color, and ethnicity. We were simply humans, sharing a tragedy, seeking hope in each other, with our hearts open wide because of our grief.
And so we ask for a different path for our community and for our country. We seek a path of thoughtful, informed dialogue, a place where we can acknowledge the validity of diverse points of view, while holding each other in high regard, without stereotypes, without hatred, without fear. We face a new opportunity to heal relations and bring peace.
This will mean setting aside preconceived assumptions about groups that are different from our own, refusing to lump all Muslims into one group labeled “terrorist.” This will mean dialing down the hate speech and rhetoric that does nothing more than inflame an already bruised spot. This will mean standing up against the burning of ANY sacred text.
InterFaith Works’s Board and Round Table of Faith Leaders are comprised of Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs. We share a profound commitment to affirming the dignity of all people of all faith traditions.
We remember the words of Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984):
They came first for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
Let us not be silent in the face of oppression. We invite the Central New York community to speak out on this remembrance weekend on behalf of human dignity and in search of understanding. We invite the community to join the dialogue that builds bridges of understanding.