A Shining Day for America

14 10 2015

bremertonmuslimsupportLike anyone, America has its good days and its bad days. October 10, 2015 was one of our good days.

Let me quote from one report about the anti-Muslim protests across our nation:

“Most of the planned protests simply didn’t happen after all. Among the few rallies that actually came together, the counter-protesters well outnumbered the anti-Muslim activists.”

In Michigan, Maryland, Tennessee, Alabama, Oklahoma, Oregon and Washington DC, hardly anyone showed up to protest, but concerned neighbors and churches were there anyway to show support.

Phoenix, AZ was the only place that actually felt like a protest, but though a lot of guns were seen, thank God it passed peacefully.

In heavy rain falling on Bremerton, WA, about 35 locals came, concerned for their Muslim neighbors (photo above). No protestors braved the storm. “We don’t mind getting wet,” one of them told Hatewatch. “It’s worth it to defend our friends.”

One of the best stories came from the Noor Islamic Cultural Center in Michigan, where one lone protestor showed up. A Caucasian man exited the mosque to start a conversation with her. She thought he was Muslim and responded with “Get behind me Satan!” The man told her he was actually Jewish, and after some dialogue got her talking with some of the Muslim women from the mosque who also affirmed how much they were against the violence and murder of ISIS-type groups. The story ends with the protestor coming into the mosque to join a special breakfast they had prepared for all the protestors! She thought she was taking a stand against the enemy and discovered new friends.

Meanwhile, many interfaith groups across the country planned events to show their support for the Muslim houses of worship, some including positive social action plans.

The Huffington Post concluded that the end result of the protests, in fact, was a large outpouring of love and interfaith support for the Muslim community.

Well done, America! Thank you for your prayers for peace this weekend. Thank you to those who showed up at a mosque. Way to turn hate away and show that #LoveYourNeighbor is still worth standing in the rain for!





#LoveYourNeighbor

8 10 2015
A demonstrator holds a sign at a "Freedom of Speech Rally Round II" across the street from the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix, Arizona May 29, 2015.  Arizona police stepped up security near a mosque on Friday ahead of a planned anti-Islam demonstration featuring displays of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, weeks after a similar contest in Texas came under attack from two gunmen.  REUTERS/Nancy Wiechec

A demonstrator holds a sign at a “Freedom of Speech Rally Round II” across the street from the Islamic Community Center in Phoenix, Arizona May 29, 2015. Arizona police stepped up security near a mosque on Friday ahead of a planned anti-Islam demonstration featuring displays of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, weeks after a similar contest in Texas came under attack from two gunmen. REUTERS/Nancy Wiechec

In my last blog I let you know about the anti-Muslim protests planned for this weekend. In this update, I want to share with you what just one person is doing about it.

Catherine Orsborn is from Shoulder to Shoulder, a Peace Catalyst-related organization. Here’s a letter explaining how she is rallying people to respond:

Hi, all,

Thank you so much for all of you who have made connections with your local clergy in the lead-up to this weekend’s hate rallies targeting Muslims.  We’re sending the below email out to the Shoulder to Shoulder community lists tonight to mobilize a mass social media move against the hate rallies this weekend.  It’s been complicated trying to organize local communities on this because most of the Islamic Centers we have connected with do not want any extra media attention brought to these protests, and therefore are asking us to refrain from counter-events- we got coverage in the Huffington Post on this point.  However, we need to be out in public showing our opposition to this hate, so have been working with some other national groups on social media strategy.  It’s included in the note below.

Our asks for you: Will you 1) use your denominational or organizational owned social media to participate in this social media campaign starting this Friday at 3 pm (not before, please, to concentrate the timing with our national partners!), 2) send this note out to your communities as you’re able, and 3) have your head of denomination or other high profile clergy participate in a tweet, and send it to us (@S2SCampaign or Catherine.Orsborn@s2scampaign.org) so we can highlight many religious leaders speaking out at this critical time.

Thank you!

In solidarity,

Catherine

This weekend:  #LoveYourNeighbor #HateUnchecked

Many of you have heard by now that there are a number of anti-Muslim events planned to take place around the country on October 10 (this Saturday).  Our partners at the Center for New Community are tracking these on this site and have an interactive map where you can see the locations, with links to the Facebook pages, for the events.  These are demonstrations of hate that go against the values of our religious traditions to love and extend hospitality to our neighbors, and against the highest ideals of our nation.

We know that there are Shoulder to Shoulder partners, along with concerned clergy, communities and individuals, around the country who have been actively fighting against anti-Muslim bigotry in their communities and building long-term relationships with their Muslim neighbors for a long time.  Public demonstrations of hate targeting the Muslim community are the reason Shoulder to Shoulder exists as a network of religious and interfaith individuals and groups.  This is a time when the Muslim community needs to hear and see our support.  Our national leaders are speaking out against this, as are many local clergy.

If you have not already, we encourage you to check on this map to see if there’s an event planned near you, and reach out to your Muslim friends and neighbors, and to interfaith networks that are in conversation with the local Muslim community.  Offer to help or to stand with them in solidarity, and ask them what they would like their friends from other religious communities to be doing right now to show support for American Muslims.

Many local Muslim groups have asked that people not turn out in large groups to the protests in order to avoid giving these groups more media attention than they have already gotten.  Other local groups may want interfaith allies to show their support through turning out people to surround the Islamic Centers (or perhaps another Islamic Center nearby) in a ring of solidarity.  Regardless, our nation and the world needs to know that this type of anti-Muslim hate doesn’t go unchallenged by our faith communities.  Whether or not your local Islamic Center wants a physical display of support from their interfaith partners this weekend, and even if you live in a location with no protests, we are encouraging everyone to participate in a social media pushback against this hate.

Join us starting this Friday at 3 pm EST (please wait until then to maximize social media takeover potential) on Twitter and Facebook to begin the nationwide social media pushback against these hateful acts.  We are using the hashtags #LoveYourNeighbor and #HateUnchecked, and we encourage you to post photos, videos or other sharable content with these.  Here’s a Facebook event page concentrated on the #HateUnchecked piece of this campaign, and as an inter-religious organization, we have added #LoveYourNeighbor.  Some ideas for social media engagement:

  • Post a photo that shows positive interactions between Muslims and non-Muslims in your community (from a dinner, a service project, or just hanging out), tagged with #LoveYourNeighbor #HateUnchecked
  • Post a quote from your religious tradition (scripture, a quote from a religious leader, etc) tagged with #LoveYourNeighbor #HateUnchecked
  • Post a video of yourself or with others stating what in your religious tradition drives you to stand against this hate, tagged with #LoveYourNeighbor #HateUnchecked
  • Post a photo of yourself (in clerical clothing, if that applies to you) – alone or with others in your community- holding the attached sign and tag with #LoveYourNeighbor #HateUnchecked
  • Some sample tweets:

o   Silence from the majority will destroy our country.  We can no longer sit back.  We must all raise our voices against #HateUnchecked.  #LoveYourNeighbor

o   My religious tradition teaches us to #LoveYourNeighbor.  We won’t sit silently when there is #HateUnchecked.

o   Our country is at its best when all communities are treated with equal dignity and respect #LoveYourNeighbor #HateUnchecked

o   “Do unto others” means religious freedom for all #LoveYourNeighbor #HateUnchecked

If you want to get together with others this weekend, you might consider hosting a public watch party of Unity Production Foundation’s new short film, “American Muslims: Facts vs Fiction” or one of their many other excellent productions on Islam, and hold a conversation about the issue of anti-Muslim bigotry in America.

There are many ways to engage and stand up with your Muslim neighbors this weekend.  Please tweet at us @S2SCampaign and let us know what your community does to come together in support of American Muslims this weekend!

In Solidarity,

Catherine

Personally, I love Catherine’s creative response! If you’d like to see another one, I’ll leave you with a link to a very different kind of response, but equally beautiful, that was successfully tried before (the photo beginning this article comes from this event):  http://tempe.redemptionaz.com/resources/blog-posts/detail/a-bright-night-for-the-church-a-recap-of-the-phoenix-mosque-protest/

Thank you for caring enough to take time to look at these links. Our country is not under attack by Islam. It is under attack by hate and prejudice. These can be found in people claiming any religious faith.

Is our love big enough to take this challenge? #LoveYourNeighbor





Love Excludes Prejudice

4 10 2015

mosque protest

 

There are anti-Islam protests—some armed—planned across America this Sunday, October 10th. Please take a moment to read about it here: http://imagine2050.newcomm.org/2015/09/29/anti-muslim-protests-some-armed-planned-for-at-least-20-sites-across-the-country/

How does that article make you feel? Is it possible to be a patriot and yet love your neighbor too?

This Sunday my wife and I enjoyed a wonderful church service in Indonesia, specifically for the poor, the prostitutes, and the mentally insane. About 60 people, or half the congregation, came from this last group. These were women who used to wander the streets naked, or were rejected by their families because they had become unable to function in the world. Some of them still don’t speak at all. But they were welcome at this special church service for them.

I noticed the worship band was made up of good-looking, smartly dressed young people who were there to serve others. As they sang, everyone was invited to dance to the music, which many of the crazy people seemed to really enjoy. Those able to speak were invited to take the stage and share how God had answered their prayers. It was a beautiful, joyful moment in the week when everyone’s individual problems could be put aside to belong to God’s family together.

The next morning I was reading the Passion translation of the Bible, and came across this heading to James chapter 2: The Royal Law of Love Excludes Prejudice. Verses 8-9 instruct us: Your calling is to fulfill the royal law of love as given to us in this Scripture: “You must love and value your neighbor as you love and value yourself!” For keeping this law is the noble way to live. But when you show prejudice you commit sin and you violate this royal law of love!

Here James is quoting both Moses and Jesus. He reminds us that following Jesus doesn’t mean there is no law—the Law of Love has become our “noble way to live.”

This love excludes all forms of prejudice. Whether it’s telling a black person to sit in the back of the bus, or giving a woman lower wages than a man for the same job, or refusing to sell your wedding cakes to a homosexual, or protesting the building of a mosque/church/any other house of worship in your community, or talking about any group of people with negative stereotypes—there is no room in the Royal Law of Love for any kind of prejudice.

The offering this church took from the poor and crazy I doubt would cover the cost of electricity for their sound system or their bread and juice for communion. Did they really need a full worship band with five vocalists and two dancers? After all, half the congregation might go home and immediately forget everything that happened. This church gave their best for the poor just as they probably had given in an earlier service that morning for the rich.

So I ask the American Christians reading this blog—is protesting at Islamic Centers across the nation the best we can give our Muslim neighbors? If not, what could we give them that shows our love? I’m talking about showing the same kind of love if those were our church members being victimized by hate? If that protest was outside our church, instead of our neighbor’s house of worship, what would we do?

One of the great challenges of being a peacemaker is loving all sides of an issue—loving the victimized Muslim neighbor, and loving the protesters shouting their hate at the same time. For those of you living in one of the targeted cities, I encourage you to ask God for your own creative way to fight prejudice with the Royal Law of Love.

“For keeping this law is the noble way to live.”