Today is Day 13 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to reach out in your community to do interfaith service projects. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
The leader of the Buddhist Meditation Group at my church describes practicing Buddhism as his way of finding the secret to life–the same secret that Muslims, Catholics, and Jews seek in their own faith traditions. Through my own spiritual exploration, I have realized that any self-proclaimed religious or spiritual being has found a unique and valuable secret to life.
It was not until I was a freshman in high school that I realized that my secret to life would stem from Unitarian Universalism, and not, in fact, the religion that I was born into. But I realized that by choosing to go out and find some secret, no matter how diverse our practices of exploring it may be, we all are ultimately chasing shared goals: social justice, empowerment, advocacy, and wholeness.
We all know that healthy relationships are driven by honesty and fidelity and are only possible when secrets are shared. The same is true for interfaith relationships between communities. What is service if these “life secrets” are kept? What is social justice without dialogue inspired by diverse ideas, beliefs, and ideologies? For my Girl Scout Gold Award project, I held an Interfaith Leadership Summit for high school youth to present their life secrets, spiritual investigation, and lived experiences. A summit that would, in turn, create a flow of ideas between the temples, mosques, and churches in my community.
Participants in this summit, held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Reading, initiated dialogue, listened to speakers, and engaged in workshops designed to highlight the commonality in our diversity. They learned that you don’t have to go miles, crossing town lines, or state borders, to find a community invested in the same principles as your own. That same community could exist within the church next door or the temple across the street. And all you have to do is walk in the door.
For today’s action, put aside your differences, find common ground, and undertake an interfaith service project to better your community. Click here for resources to get you started.
Jenna is a high school senior and attends the UU Church of Reading, Massachusetts. Inspired by her beginnings in community engagement working on Luna Farm and volunteering with the ARC of Eastern Massachusetts, she has taken up the call for social justice in her school and larger community.More >
Today is Day 12 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to register for our “Taking Action Against Anti-Muslim Bigotry” webinar. Click here for more resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
We have cause to celebrate. American society is well on the way to reflecting the diversity of a globalized world. As the director of the Shoulder-to-Shoulder campaign, I have the privilege of working in the midst of this beautiful multiplicity of thought, faith, and culture every day.
Growth in religious diversity offers rich opportunities for engagement across lines of faith and inspires my own commitment to continue this important work. I have had the privilege of witnessing how interfaith communities support one another in their shared needs for vibrant worship, and in service to address common social concerns. As such, interreligious communities play an important role in ensuring that the road to a truly multicultural society is normative, not hostile.
But, as the saying goes, change doesn’t always come easy. While American Muslims make up just .9 percent of the U.S. population, 2010 FBI hate crimes statistics indicated a 50 percent increase in attacks targeting American Muslims. That is the fastest growing rate of hate crimes amongst American religious groups, and it has held steady in recent years.
We cannot sit idly by while members of our communities are targeted with hate and violence. Join me for the “Taking Action Against Anti-Muslim Bigotry” webinar on February 28. We’ll discuss ways of challenging anti-Muslim bigotry from individualized attacks, to proposed anti-Shari’ah legislation and stereotypical rhetoric. Click here to register today.
Together, let’s explore practical options for you and your community to take in order to help make the road to a diverse society a healthy and supportive road for each American community, including American Muslims.
PS: Faith-based organizations can also sign up to become Shoulder-to-Shoulder Community Members! This national network provides state, local, and regional faith-based organizations with resources to address anti-Muslim discrimination in their community and across the country. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.More >
Today is Day 11 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to prepare to participate in the “Breaking Bread and Building Bridges” campaign. Click here for more resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
My name is Ivone and as a recent Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, I write this piece on behalf of the millions of undocumented immigrants residing in this country. We all wish to have similar opportunities like the one that I was given through DACA, based on our character and not our places of origin.
I cannot forget that I am part of a larger group of individuals who reside in your communities, provide you with customer service at stores and restaurants, and are part of the same congregations that many of you attend. We are people who have established longstanding roots and relationships and have the same kind of dreams, beliefs, and desires as you. We are asking for your support and participation with a new initiative that the interfaith community has launched called Breaking Bread and Building Bridges.
The Breaking Bread and Building Bridges campaign consists of a series of events designed to create and strengthen relationships of solidarity between faith communities and immigrants’ rights groups. Groups are encouraged to hold local events such as potlucks, vigils, and detention visitations as a way to effectively educate, organize, and advocate for just immigration policies.
Click here for more info on Breaking Bread and Building Bridges!
At a time when there’s been a meaningful shift in public opinion on such a polarized issue, our efforts are part of a larger strategy to lift up the voices of the faith community at the local level. We are the ones helping to turn the tide for immigrants’ rights in the U.S.
Our campaign is important because it provides an opportunity for communities across the country to become involved in advocating for just and humane immigration reform this year. We are creatively engaging in a number of activities that will allow people’s voices to be heard all the way to Washington, D.C., where decision makers need to hear from us. As public witnesses, you have a unique opportunity to help frame the issue going forward. The need for comprehensive immigration reform in this country is more pressing than ever and by becoming involved, you are helping to amplify the local voices of those who are directly affected to create the change we need!
If you are ready to join this life-changing movement, I strongly encourage you to help make a difference by participating in the Breaking Bread and Building Bridges events. Click here for useful resources that can help guide you every step of the way.
It’s amazing the ripple effect that is created when people come together around a cause for the common good of our nation. Help us magnify this effect across the country today by holding a Breaking Bread and Building Bridges event!
With much gratitude for your support,
Ivone serves as the Co-Chair for the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, a partnership of faith-based organizations committed to enacting fair and humane immigration reform.More >
Today is Day 10 of the Thirty Days of Love. The first step in building interfaith social justice partnerships (or strengthening old ones!) is meeting and getting to know our neighbors. Today’s action is to find time before the end of the Thirty Days to go to a religious service of a different faith in your community. Click here for more resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
My journey to interfaith work began when I was in high school. My closest friends were a Mormon, a South Indian Hindu, and a Cuban Jew. We talked about everything–school, sports, our futures–everything except our religions. I learned many years after high school about the important role each of their religious traditions played in their lives and wondered why that was not something we were ever able to talk about back in high school.
When I was student at the University of Illinois, I began to see the way faith was playing out on the global stage, mostly in the form of violence. I realized that if the world was going to be a safer, more peaceful place for the next generation, we needed a movement that highlighted the inspirational parts of the world’s great religions. The first step towards that was to develop a language that allowed friends of different faiths to discuss their traditions openly with one another. And the most important part of that vocabulary is a simple question: how does your faith inspire you to serve others?
Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) was founded in 2002, and our first hire was an evangelical Christian, April, who today is IFYC’s Vice President for Leadership. While our faiths had many differences, I was inspired by how April’s family had adopted several children, inspired by their evangelical faith.
The organization was built on the idea that we could bridge our differences with a conversation about what inspires us to serve, and thereby mobilize a critical mass of young interfaith leaders who know how to build relationships across religious divides. Today, IFYC has trained thousands of students, on over a hundred college campuses, helping them see religion as a bridge of cooperation, rather than a barrier of division.
“I believe every inch of America is sacred, from sea to shining sea. I believe we make it holy by who we welcome and by how we relate to each other. Call it my Muslim eyes on the American project. ‘We made you different nations and tribes that you may come to know one another,’ says the Qur’an. There is no better place on earth than America to enact that vision. It is part of the definition of our nation.”
- Eboo Patel in “Sacred Ground, Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America”
We live at a time when people of different faith backgrounds are interacting with greater frequency than ever before. We hear the stories of people who seek to make faith a barrier of division or a bomb of destruction all too often. We have the power to change that.
During this second week of the Thirty Days of Love, as we all “think interfaith,” make plans to attend a faith service in a tradition you are not familiar with. You might find this simple act quite revolutionary. Click here for more resources, including a guide to proper etiquette in different houses of worship.
To a better world together,
Eboo is the Founder and President of Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based non-profit that seeks to make interfaith cooperation a social norm. Eboo is the 2013 UUA General Assembly Ware Lecturer. His latest book is entitled “Sacred Ground, Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America.”More >
Today is Day 9 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to “Tweet Your Faith.” Click here for more resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
People of faith bring a number of key perspectives to contemporary society. In a world that too often bows at the altar of radical individualism, we argue for the value of community. Where communities are intolerant of difference, we argue for the dignity and value of each human being. To those who view faith as a source of suffering rather than healing, we offer examples of transformative social movements that were firmly based in faith: the abolition of slavery in the United States; the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa; and India’s casting off of colonialism, among many others.
My organization, Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, has much in common with the Standing on the Side of Love campaign. We are mobilizing the Jewish community to hold America to its promise as a land of opportunity for all. This nation has provided incredible opportunity for Jews, many of whom immigrated with nothing but the clothes on their backs. We are a community of Jews working to ensure that our nation is one where basic fairness and the common good underpin social and economic policy – not just for Jews, but for all who live here.
While our work is based in and inspired by Jewish tradition and history, we work across lines of race and faith in communities from coast to coast. In doing so, we affirm that we are interconnected and that our fates are inextricably linked. We believe that when any group of people is treated wrongly, everyone in our nation is harmed.
Faiza Ali, a participant in Bend the Arc’s Community Organizing Residency, an interfaith training program for community organizers, has taken this to heart. Faiza, a Muslim, works with a coalition largely composed of Christian churches to find solutions to community problems. Her commitment to social justice is based in her religious belief, but it in no way conflicts with the diverse group of congregants she works with. Her commitment to multi-faith action is exactly what Bend the Arc strives to foster.
In addition to our work in communities, we are taking a stand in Washington, D.C. for a tax system that is fair, progressive, and that works for everyone. I recently joined other faith leaders, including Unitarian Universalists, for “Rabbis, Imams, Pastors and Nuns on the Bus,” to encourage our elected officials to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and to end destructive and unnecessary tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. Though our practices differ, people of faith share a tradition of service and the belief that we must work together to raise up those in need.
When we look at news around the world, we often see evidence that religion can be a source of conflict. By providing concrete evidence to the contrary, we show that religion truly can be a unifying force and help address the roots of suffering in our society. As it says in the Talmud, “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” And when we work in interfaith partnership, we can accomplish so much more together.
Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block
Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block is Senior Director of Leadership Initiatives and Rabbi-in-Residence for Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice.More >