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Standing on the Side of Love with Muslims in Terre Haute

No Comments | Share On Facebook| Standing on the Side of Love with Muslims in Terre Haute Share/Save/Bookmark May 24, 2013
Group of participants from the Terre Haute interfaith event.

Credit: Emhemed Hamed

This spring, the members of the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Terre Haute, Indiana, are working to build relationships with our Muslim neighbors.

We invited members of the local Muslim community to join us for conversation and dessert. Our Social Action Committee worked with a Muslim student, Emhemed Hamed, to plan the program in partnership with the Islamic Center of Terre Haute, the Indiana State University (ISU) Muslim Students Association, and the ISU Interfaith Fellowship.

The event involved 45-50 participants and was extremely successful. The evening included a call to prayer and we were all invited to watch and listen to it. Later, we UUs sang our closing Sunni hymn that we sing at every Sunday service at the end of the event.

The conversations made a big difference for all who came. One man said he would never forget the evening and some Saudi women invited one of our members to lunch. A woman who adjusted my new bifocals and is studying Arabic said that her Muslim friends who had gone told her how great it was and how comfortable they felt. They especially enjoyed a painting by one of our members (now deceased) that displays many different symbols for the major world religions.

Check out this slideshow of photos that Emhemed made from the event:

We, in turn, were invited to attend a celebration for all the Muslim students who graduated from Indiana State University this year. Our congregation was given a very lovely thank you certificate for our support of the Islamic Center of Terre Haute. We are excited to build on these relationships and collaborate more in the future.

Our congregation has also been inspired to join the Shoulder to Shoulder campaign, which will help support our interfaith work.


This post was submitted by Catherine Mcguire, a congregant at the First UU Congregation of Terre Haute.

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I Met with My Senator Today, Will You Join Me?

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UUA & RAC delegations with Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado

UUA & Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) delegations with Sen. Michael Bennet.

This morning, I met with Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, my own senator and one of the “Gang of Eight” who drafted the bipartisan immigration reform bill, to share why I support compassionate immigration reform.

Will you join me in calling for compassionate immigration reform by meeting with your own members of Congress? Click here for a step-by-step guide to holding an in-district advocacy visit with your representatives.

As people of faith, we have a critical role to play in this ongoing immigration reform debate. We know that love has no borders. Our faith calls us to embrace the inherent worth and dignity of all and to speak out against injustice. We have a moral obligation to seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity—together, we can create a country where all are welcome.

Next week, Congress is having its last in-district work period before the immigration bill moves to the Senate floor. The window for shaping the content of immigration reform is closing fast and your members of Congress need to hear from you now.

I met with my senator today—will you meet with yours? Click here to learn how you can hold an in-district meeting with your representatives and raise your voice for compassionate immigration reform.

In faith,

The Rev. Peter Morales
President
Unitarian Universalist Association


The message above went out on Wednesday, May 22, 2013 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.

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Immigrant Workers Need Our Love

1 Comment | Share On Facebook| Immigrant Workers Need Our Love Share/Save/Bookmark May 14, 2013

The Senate Judiciary Committee will be considering amendments again today to the bipartisan immigration reform bill. They began the amendment process last week, and will continue through the week of May 20. The amendment process is vitally important to comprehensive immigration reform. While some of these amendments provide important anti-discrimination and labor protections for immigration workers, others would effectively eliminate the ability of any guest workers to immigrate legally to the United States.

We must raise our voices and tell the members of the Judiciary Committee that our country needs compassionate immigration reform. Senators in the Judiciary Committee need to hear from people of faith across the country about the impact these amendments will have on our communities.

Please call 1-866-940-2439 to speak with the office of a Judiciary Committee member this morning and say:

“As a person of faith, I urge the Senator to SUPPORT all immigration amendments being offered by Senator Blumenthal, and Schumer #5, which would protect immigrant workers.

I also urge you to OPPOSE amendments that would hurt immigrant workers, specifically Sessions #3, Lee #19, Hatch #19 and #20, and Grassley #73 and #74.”

If you get an answering machine, please leave a message. Staff will be reporting all day on the number of calls for and against each amendment to the Senators. Find more information on the specific amendments below.

We believe that love has no borders, love keeps families together, and love respects the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Together, we can ensure that this immigration reform bill reflects our values.

Please call 1-866-940-2439 today!

In faith,

Jennifer Toth
Campaign Manager
Standing on the Side of Love


SUPPORT

Senator Blumenthal’s Amendments #7, #13, #17, and #18
These amendments would ban hiring discrimination based on national origin or citizenship status, provide whistleblower protections for temporary workers, ensure workers have the right to a pay stub so that they can prove employment status for the pathway to citizenship, and codify current ICE policy restricting immigration enforcement actions where labor violations have been cited, so a threat of raids won’t keep workers from reporting abuse.

Senator Schumer’s Amendment #5
This amendment would help workers change employers without the risk of losing their visa, and would provide an electronic monitoring system for the program.

OPPOSE

Senator Sessions’ Amendment #3
This amendment would prevent any guest workers from entering the U.S. if the unemployment rate is 5 percent or more. This is such a low threshold that it could effectively keep all guest workers from immigrating to the U.S.

Senator Lee’s Amendment #19 and Senator Hatch’s Amendments #19 and #20
These amendments would exempt employers of temporary workers from complying with labor and employment laws, thus allowing them to violate the rights of temporary workers; and would limit the ability of individuals and groups from submitting a complaint about worker’s mistreatment on behalf of a mistreated temporary worker.

Senator Grassley’s Amendments #73 & #74
These amendments would restrict temporary workers (new “W” visa recipients) from renewing their visas, and would require all temporary workers to provide proof that they can and are paying for their own health insurance, which could effectively prevent almost all temporary workers from entering the U.S.

*Please note that you likely will not be connected with your own Senator’s office through this number, unless they are a specific Judiciary Committee member. This is the best way to raise our voices at this moment. Judiciary members know they are responsible to ALL of us as they consider amendments. Feel free to call 1-866-940-2439 multiple times to connect with all priority Judiciary members. The Judiciary Committee list can be found here, if you want to call directly.


The message above went out on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 to Standing on the Side of Love supporters. You can sign-up for these emails here.

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UUs Support Gay-Straight Alliance in Lake County, Florida Schools

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UUs in Standing on the Side of love shirts gather at the at Lake County School Board workshop.

Yellow shirts get organized: Andrea Coburn, Nelson Hay, Carole Clark, and Diane Lamontagne of the UU Fellowship of Marion County. Dr. Joyce Hamilton Henry of the ACLU is on the far right. (Credit: Martha Hartgering)

For the past two months, Unitarian Universalists from three congregations–the UU Fellowship of Marion County, First Unitarian Church of Orlando, and the UU Congregation of Lake County–have been actively standing on the side of love by supporting the establishment of a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) Club to help counter bullying in Carver Middle School. So far, they have attended five different events to support the measure.

In response to the club proposal by eighth-grader Bayli Silberstein, members of the Lake County School Board first proposed banning clubs, potentially including even sports and service clubs, which are not directly related to academic courses. After this failed, the board tentatively proposed allowing clubs, but requiring parental permission for students to participate. Then, reportedly at the request of one or more Lake County School Board members, the Florida legislature passed and Governor Scott signed a change in the definition of “secondary school” that may allow the Board to discriminate among clubs without violating the Federal Equal Access Act.

After a law suit was filed by the ACLU, the school board has now allowed the club to go ahead at Carver Middle School, but only until the end of this school year. In the meantime, the Board has opened an evaluation of a half dozen policy options regarding school clubs.

Rev. Janet Onnie of the UU Fellowship of Marion County  issued the following statement, which was read into the record at a Lake County School Board workshop in Minneola, Florida:

In times of disagreement Unitarian Universalists stand of the side of love. One of our seven principles affirms the inherent worth and dignity of each individual. We express that by witnessing and working for justice for disenfranchised groups of people. Sexual orientation or gender identity is not a choice. It’s like the color of your eyes; only one aspect of the complete person in a relationship with a loving God.

We understand that there is great fear surrounding those who are different from us – whether it be skin color or socioeconomic class or political persuasion or sexual orientation. Nonetheless, it is our responsibility as a society to create conditions where people feel safe so that their individual gifts might flourish. This is especially true in our schools. It is the job of the schools to provide an atmosphere conducive to learning. If an individual or a group feels threatened or bullied because of something over which they have no control, the learning environment is compromised. When we allow our fear to override our commitment to raise our young to be productive and kind individuals, we have failed in our duty to them.

It seems to me that answering the question, “What would any of our peacemakers do?” is a good test of any policy. I believe Jesus or Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. would support the formation of an alliance among different people attempting to understand each other. I believe these peacemakers would stand on the side of love.


This post was written by Nelson Hay. Nelson is a member of the Welcoming Congregation Committee and Communication Committee at the UU Fellowship of Marion County, Florida.

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Running for Someone Else’s Life

2 Comments | Share On Facebook| Running for Someone Else’s Life Share/Save/Bookmark May 07, 2013

This post was written by Helene Newberg. Helene is an avid runner and a member of First Parish Unitarian Universalist in Arlington, Massachusetts.


Marathon 2012

Smiling Shaira holds her hands in a peace sign for the camera.

Shaira

In 2012, I was out of town on Patriot’s Day. Watching social media for Boston Marathon news, I started seeing reports that a student was found drowned in a local pond, less than a mile from our house. My heart sank; I did not want to believe that a child maybe from my community could die on what was reported to be a gorgeous day – marathoners were suffering in surprise early heat, but for others the warmth would be welcome.

Over the next several hours, the story emerged. Foul play was not suspected and, yes, the child was the sixteen year old daughter of friends we had known since our daughter’s first day of kindergarten. Shaira suffered from depression and died by suicide. I knew Shaira as loud and brilliant and creative and gorgeous.

Our hearts broke for our friends, Shaira’s family, who had done everything possible to support their daughter, whom I knew they loved and cherished with their every breath.

Samaritans, Inc.

Shaira's 5K team

Team #7 Running

Years ago, a friend who knew me as a runner asked if I would support a new fundraising race for Samaritans. I thought I was in for a depressing experience, raising money for suicide prevention. It was anything but. One of Samaritan’s goals is to remove the stigma from loss by suicide. The 5K day is a chance to “run for someone else’s life,” supporting helplines and ongoing survivor services.

Last year, with the help of a teen Samaritans volunteer from Shaira’s youth group community, we built a 5K team with members from her home, school, and faith communities. Her dad said running is #7 on the list of things that made Shaira happy, so we called ourselves “Team #7 Running.”

Marathon 2013

I had run marathons before, but never Boston. Not fast enough to qualify, I had never been motivated enough to take on the fundraising commitment, although like many I really wanted to run the storied course.

Consoling anyone in the wake of such a loss seemed futile. However, I knew the family was active and I offered to be company on short runs. It was on one of these runs that I asked about applying for a John Hancock Charity Program Boston Marathon number for Samaritans to honor Shaira’s memory. My thought was that I could use tools I had available – including my near-obsessive passion for distance running – to be supportive in this time of loss.

The idea was a win all around. Samaritans would get needed support. I would spread the word about this resource for those in need and for kids who might volunteer. The community would have a place in which to continue supporting Shaira’s family. I would get to run Boston. All I had to do was raise more than $5,000 and train for a marathon.

My fundraising efforts were humbling. I almost didn’t have to ask and donations poured in.

Six weeks before the marathon, my knee fell apart. I restricted my training and was almost certain I should not start the race. My community support never wavered.

For the one year anniversary of Shaira’s death, her family held a prayer service at their mosque. There I reunited with some of the 5K team and made new friends who lent me a headscarf (but did not insist I cover up), showed me where to stow my shoes and where to sit in meditative prayer for the hour before brief remarks by Shaira’s family and Imam. I opened an English translation of the Qu’ran to page one and gained a deeper appreciation for the strength Shaira’s family finds in their faith and their faith community.

Helene gets a high five from a spectator as she runs the Boston Marathon.

Helene gets a high five from a spectator.

A week later, I got on the bus for Hopkinton, nervous about my injury. I wound up with the best running day of my life. Crowds cheering Boston Marathoners are the best spectators on earth. I flew past my cheering section. I was going to finish this thing. After six weeks of not running, Shaira was with me. I felt amazing.

Until 2:50pm. I heard strange fireworks sounds up ahead, then sirens and helicopters, and finally I pulled off the course at mile 25.2 where my personal story becomes far less important than other things that happened that week.

As what many feared became true – the perpetrators had some vague connection to Islamic extremist ideology – a detail of my story that I had not given second thought began to attract attention. As Muslims across the country braced for anti-Muslim backlash, I had run this now hyper-symbolic marathon in memory of a beautiful, beloved Muslim girl who struggled with mental illness. I am blessed to live in a community where support for all, regardless of faith, is the norm.

Marathon 2014

Shaira, you and I have unfinished business. We’re not done yet. You propelled me through 25.2 miles. I pledge to cover the entire distance next year. You bet I’m all in. Who’s with me?

Running medals with Boston skyline in the background.

Boston strong.


In times like these, when our different faiths are more likely to tear us apart than to bring us together, it is vitally important that we stand with one another on the side of love, working with interfaith partnerships to strengthen and support our neighbors and our communities. Thank you for your support of Standing on the Side of Love as we work toward this goal.

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