Today is Day 23 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to learn about the social justice work of another faith and journal about what about that work inspires you. Click here for more resources, family actions and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
Yesterday, members of the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ participated in the Moral March on Raleigh in Raleigh, N.C., as part of a group of thousands of concerned North Carolina citizens and committed individuals from throughout the country. We sang, prayed, and marched together to raise awareness about the threats to voting rights in North Carolina that are spreading to other states.
As we stood surrounded by people who shared our concerns and listened to our collective cry for change, we both paused and reflected that this is love reaching out in action—raising our voices for those who are being silenced by voting restriction tactics. Showing people who we don’t even know, have never met, that we love them, that they matter, and that we won’t let their power be taken away from them.
Back in April of last year, the UUA and the UCC once again stood together in Rhode Island and celebrated and worshipped with citizens of that state as they worked to pass marriage equality. And soon after, they became the 10th state to grant all people the freedom to marry the person they love!
We must, as communities dedicated to justice, peace and love, reach out to others to share the transformational stories of what our unique faiths have to offer. Each one of us has a powerful story to share about how our faiths have touched our lives, how it has transformed us, and helped us to make the world a better place. We need to be telling these stories, listening to others, and helping people grow in spirit and in service.
Thanks to you and everyone who embraces the principles of love and justice, we now have nearly 20 states with marriage equality, and we continue to move closer to comprehensive immigration reform that will recognize the human worth and dignity of the 11 million undocumented individuals living in the United States. At yesterday’s march, we stood side by side with the NAACP and other partners to show that we are equally committed to voting rights and access to a fair and open democracy in this country. While there is still much more to do, let’s take this time to pause, reflect, and celebrate all we have accomplished together and all that we will accomplish in the future.
Rev. Peter Morales and Rev. Geoffrey BlackMore >
Today is Day 22 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s daily action is to learn more about Muslim communities in your area and about the Shoulder-to-Shoulder campaign. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
At the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign, we talk a lot about effective responses to anti-Muslim sentiment. Expressions can be anything from bullying, to insults on the street, to desecration of sacred spaces, to legislative actions, to hate crimes…and the list goes on.
After a few years of listening to the experiences of faith communities across the country, it has become clear that responses to anti-Muslim sentiment are often only as strong as the existing relationships between the targeted community and those who wish to be supportive.
In other words, the most effective response starts way before the actual incident takes place.
That’s why today I’m asking that you stand on the side of love by reaching out from your congregation to a local Islamic Community Center or mosque. There are a number of reasons why building a relationship now is your best response to anti-Muslim sentiment:
Your relationship will be an example of what we are trying to achieve in the first place; communities and relationships that are safe and celebratory of people from many traditions and identities. By cultivating this kind of a relationship, you have the opportunity to know your neighbors as an authentic and dynamic faith community instead of a community defined by stereotypical and inaccurate tropes. This also allows you to tell positive stories about interfaith partnerships before anything happens, addressing misinformation that can lead to discriminatory incidents.
It means that your first call after a tragic incident is not one establishing your trustworthiness. Instead, you can simply respond with essential activities like listening to the experience and needs of those who were impacted. Acts of religious discrimination or racism are traumatic. You can learn about what trauma is, as well as some “do’s and ‘don’ts” for responding in these resources.
It means that responses are more likely to be helpful, not hurtful, because you better understand the context and community. Among the many impacts of discrimination are a denial of agency and dignity to those who are victimized. Responses, then, must prioritize placing leadership and/or support firmly in the hands of those who are targeted. When well-intentioned allies overlook responding to the stated needs of the group and instead respond to discrimination generally, it runs the risk of re-victimizing.
In other words, responses that do not follow the leadership of the community risk doing more harm than good. Responses taken in the context of a long-standing relationship make this less likely.
Today, I’m hoping that you will join me in the effort of responding to anti-Muslim sentiment by taking the first steps to introduce yourself to a neighboring Islamic Community Center, school, or mosque. Engage your youth, your leadership, yourself in these efforts. Some options for action include:
- send a greeting card (youth group to youth group, clergy to clergy)
- identify when Islamic holidays occur and plan to celebrate them with your neighbors by either accepting an invitation to a gathering or simply sending a holiday card
- learn about important anniversaries, like the anniversary of the opening of an Islamic center or school, that you can commemorate and celebrate with the community
- engage deeper by visiting each other’s sacred spaces or organizing a joint service effort
When reaching out, you might consider some of the successes that UUs have had in the past. In addition, be aware that Islamic centers often have a different leadership structure than other religious groups. If you are having a difficult time finding a clear contact for interfaith engagement, be flexible and stay in touch as you learn how the community you’re reaching out choses to do things.
Sometimes, Islamic centers can get a lot of requests for interfaith partnerships because there may only be one mosque in town to partner with. If this is the case, be willing to go through an established interfaith organization or to meet your Muslim neighbors where they have already chosen to engage on an issue of common concern.
Interreligious partners are essential to responding to anti-Muslim sentiment. I am encouraged by the fact that we don’t have to wait for discrimination to define our responses. Instead, we can build diverse communities that celebrate our respective traditions now, making our communities safer and more inclusive for the future.
Christina Warner currently serves as Campaign Director for Shoulder-to-Shoulder: Standing with American Muslims; Upholding American Values. In this capacity, Christina collaborates with 29 national members of Shoulder-to-Shoulder and numerous local, state and regional partners to implement multi-faith work to end anti-Muslim sentiment. She previously served three years with Mennonite Central Committee in India and then Washington, DC.
Find Shoulder to Shoulder online on facebook and @S2SCampaign on Twitter!
Rev. Patty Hanneman is the minister of the UU Congregation of Hillsborough, NC. She will be offering this prayer, ‘Called from Many Places’, during the Friday night worship for UUs ahead of Saturday’s Mass Moral March.
Called from Many Places
Holy One, known by many names, whose spirit is Love,
thank you for the grace that brings us together
in this time, in this place, for a common purpose.
From many places you have called us,
from many life paths,
many other concerns.
Yet we have all been touched by what is happening
in North Carolina,
and we have chosen to be here,
to stand together, on the Side of Love.
So turn your spirit loose* on us.
Send us forth with power and with the courage
to live out in the world what we profess to be true.
Send us forth in gladness,
that in building this gathered community
we may do justice, grow in love,
enjoy ourselves, and enjoy one another.
Turn your spirit loose on us,
that we may remember who we are:
a gentle but angry people,
a people who recognize that we are connected,
connected to a power greater than ourselves,
connected to one another,
knowing that laws that hurt one of us hurt us all,
knowing that as one strong body,
we can accomplish more than any of us could do on our own.
Turn your spirit loose on us,
and inspire us to loosen the knot of cynicism and anger
in this city of Raleigh.
Let our gentleness remind us that everyone deserves a voice,
everyone carries the spark of your Love,
even those who do not believe we should be doing this work.
Let us meet them in the streets with compassion,
for many have not yet learned the truth of our interconnectedness.
Let us not oppose them so much as show them a different way
to be in and of the world.
Turn your spirit loose on us,
that our anger might carry us through a wintery North Carolina morning.
Let there move through us a benevolent rage
that the values you have set before us – the sacred values
of human dignity, compassion, and justice,
have not been honored in our legislative buildings.
Let us say with one clear voice and in numbers they cannot ignore:
That which is sacred will not be defiled.
In the spirit of Love you have gathered us,
in the spirit of Love we now depart.
May this same spirit sustain us throughout our time together
as a people of faith,
willing to risk the urging and insisting,
the pushing and tugging,
the pounding and kneading,
of this world we love so passionately,
because this is what it takes to give life the shape of justice.
Let the gathered community say Amen. May it be so.
* “Turn Your Spirit Loose” is the title of a prayer by Ted Loder, published in his book, Guerrillas of Grace, and is a phrase from which I take much inspiration.
Today is Day 21 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to learn more about how we can better welcome formerly incarcerated returning citizens into our congregations and communities. Click here to learn more about “Ban the Box” initiatives. Click here for more resources , family actions and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
I’m Meg Riley. Many of you know me as a UU minister, and one of the folks who initiated the Standing on the Side of Love program. You may not know that I am also a very proud parent of a 17 year old. Right now, I’m especially proud that my child, Jie, is interning at TakeAction Minnesota in the Justice 4 All program, working for racial equality in Minnesota.
Every day, Jie tells me horrific realities about racial discrimination in Minnesota. We pride ourselves on being “Minnesota nice,” but statistics don’t back this up. Here are three things that Jie has told me:
1. Minnesota has the worst racial jobs gap in the country. That is to say, African American Minnesotans are three times more likely to be jobless than their white neighbors.
2. The driving factor behind this discrepancy is the fact that African Americans make up 5.5% of Minnesota’s total population, but 37% of our prison population. 92% of employers run background checks in Minnesota and two-thirds of employers refuse to hire applicants with criminal or arrest records. This makes it almost impossible for formerly-incarcerated individuals to get an interview, much less a job.
3. Minnesota also has the highest rate of recidivism in the nation, at 62%. The legal discriminatory hiring practices of employers in this state, coupled with the policies that lock formerly-incarcerated individuals out of society, lead many such individuals to resort to participating in criminalized economies.
Justice 4 All has been working to break the cycle of incarceration at two levels. One is at the corporate end, working with companies to change their hiring practices. The other is through pushing policy reform for background checks, many of which provide inaccurate and outdated information. This past fall, we got Target, a Minnesotan company, to be part of a public meeting where they committed to Ban the Box nationwide. This is a major step; the second largest retailer in the U.S. will take the question that asks about a candidate’s criminal history off their job applications. We are tackling institutional racism, work that requires diligence and commitment. This work is love; by being present and intentional while fighting systems of oppression I am growing the collective well-being. Love.
Click here to learn more about criminal justice reform and to see where your state stands. Wherever you live, we suspect you will also be astonished by what you learn about who is incarcerated and the difficulties they face after they have served their time. Love calls us to act. Learn what is true where you live, and who is working for a more just and loving society.
Rev. Meg Riley + Jie Wronski RileyMore >
Today is Day 20 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s daily action is to think about a time when you felt included, a part of the group, a part of a community. What feelings arise for you when you recall that time? What in that experience signaled to you that you were included? Journal about “I know I’m included when….” Now think about a time when you felt excluded. Journal about what emotions you experienced when you felt excluded. When you felt excluded, what cues did you notice from other people? Reflect on that in your journal. Now reflect in your journal on what it means for you to be inclusive of others. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
Sometimes I forget that I’m different. Sometimes I’m part of the group, participating and being myself and being accepted for who I am. And then, out of the blue, I’m put back behind the barrier, reminded that my lived experience is, definitely, different. The funny thing about those painful moments is, usually, I’m the only one in the room who even knows it happened. Usually no one intended to exclude me, and they have no idea that they did. But they have made it clear that they are sure their lived experience is better than mine.
“I could never do what you do,” one says. Uh huh, I think, wondering what they mean by that. Please, let them say something about my talent for synthesizing a discussion, or that I’m a good listener. Nope. “I would have given up.” Really? And done what with the rest of your life? Hide under the bed? I don’t believe you.
There are a million versions of it, some gentler than others, more likely to be said in my presence. “You’re so courageous.” “You could have done so much. What a waste.” “I’d rather be dead than disabled.” The message remains the same – my lived experience is too different.
I understand about the fear. We are taught to value radical independence and self-reliance. But autonomy can be over-rated. In this world full of barriers, I ask for accommodations. Even for help. Rather than diminish me, it teaches me, again, that we are inter-dependent – all contributing in different ways.
I have multiple disabilities. I use a mobility scooter. I encounter the world differently. There are a lot of things I would never have experienced running up the stairs three at a time. Perspectives I only get down here at waist-level. Conversations I would never have had, if I had not been on a “slightly different path.”
Too often, when someone inadvertently “others” me, I don’t say anything. I decide against the “teaching moment.” There are too many of them. Yet, I know I feel included when I can point out a disempowering attitude or remark as ableist, and know that my intent will not be questioned and I can take up the teachable moments.
And I know I feel included when someone takes the trouble to draw my attention to ways I am excluding someone. When they bother to take up a teachable moment with me. The communities we live in are filled with so many differences that we will, almost certainly, “other” someone from time to time without meaning to do it, and without being aware of doing it. I do it. And, if that person I just “othered” decides to make it a “teaching moment,” I hope to have the grace to listen and to experience the discomfort that comes with realizing that I messed up, again. For me, it’s part of the journey.
Suzanne Fast is a certified Spiritual Director in private practice. She is a graduate of Meadville Lombard Theological School and a Candidate for Ministry with the Unitarian Universalist Association. Suzanne has served variously at the congregational, cluster, District, and Associational levels. Currently she is the President of EqUUal Access, whose mission is to enable the full engagement of people with disabilities in Unitarian Universalist communities and the broader society.