United interfaith effort would oppose religious violence

Date: 20 Dec 2012

Sunday morning, a gunman used hate and fear as weapons to kill six peaceful Sikh worshippers in the midst of reciting their holy scripture at a gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wis. Not only did this horrific and deplorable act of violence destroy six beautiful lives, it devastated thousands of Sikhs across the United States who have experienced numerous hate crimes, even murder, since 9/11.

The irony of this tragedy is that the Sikh religion and culture is one that insists upon peace, compassion and a deep respect for cultural and religious difference — values that many in the Sikh community have courageously upheld in the media since the shooting.

We are fortunate to know and work with many Sikhs in the Triad and are proud to say that any words of hate or acts of violence toward our Sikh neighbors are an affront to all of us. The same can be said about the Muslims in Joplin, Mo., whose mosque was burned down, and about the 19 Christians who were murdered in their church in Nigeria, both earlier this week. Religious violence threatens the very fabric of our shared humanity, and we must respond boldly with words and actions of respect and unity.

In solidarity with all those affected by religious violence, we promise to continue building bridges of understanding across lines of culture and faith in the Piedmont Triad. We recognize that unity amid our diversity does not come easily. It requires deep self-reflection, education and a willingness to be in consistent relationships with people who are different from us.

When we are able to unite around our shared values and friendships, however, we become a more welcoming and inclusive community, and we emerge stronger and more resilient. The good news is that there is an abundance of opportunities in our region to participate in multicultural and interfaith community-building initiatives, including:

  • The Piedmont Interfaith Council’s Triad Tapestry Children’s Chorus for grade-school children, beginning in September.
  • The Annual Ecumenical Celebration of Thanksgiving.
  • The NCCJ of the Piedmont Triad’s Anytown youth leadership institute, Interfaith Tour and ongoing community programs.
  • And FaithAction International House’s interfaith and multicultural leadership training, and monthly Stranger to Neighbor Dialogues at Zaytoon Mediterranean Cafe, which connects diverse adults over food and storytelling.

We also promise to continue voicing our values and taking a stand against any words or actions that threaten any person’s basic dignity and rights. This work is not just for multicultural and interfaith organizations, however; it requires daily choices from each of us.

How often have you heard something negative said about religious or cultural minorities, or new immigrants in the past month? Perhaps you heard it at work or in school, at your house of worship or in the media.

What would it take for you to risk standing up to your peers or co-workers who are demeaning others, and to model another way to relate to the increasingly diverse environment?

The world needs you and other leaders who choose to build bridges of hope instead of hate. Join us in building an inclusive and united community at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday outside of Zaytoon’s on the Wells Fargo plaza, 301 N. Elm St., for a brief vigil in remembrance of those who lost their lives to religious violence.

This article originally appeared in the Greensboro News and Record on August 12, 2012.