Thursday, April 14, 2011

Standing with the Islamic community in Springfield, MO

At this week's meeting of our Interfaith Alliance, a member of the Islamic Center reported on the latest hate attack on her faith community. Someone had left an anonymous threatening letter at the center. The writer, she told us, said that Muslims don't belong in Springfield. He called for "death to Islam." And he left behind not only his odious letter, but also three partially burned Korans, the Muslim sacred scriptures. One of our constitutional rights as Americans is freedom of religion. Every person may worship the God of his or her choice or worship no God at all. This right is one for which Americans have fought and died to preserve throughout our history. Indeed, America was first settled by people who fled religious persecution in Europe. These dissenters came here for refuge from religious intolerance and for the freedom to worship as they wanted. And yet today, religious and political extremists, who are ignorant of American history and the Constitution or indifferent to them, are attacking Islam. Infamously, Representative Peter King of New York devoted congressional hearings to promoting the idea that Islam is a threat to America. Other vote-seeking politicians, along with ratings-crazed media stars of the right are using Islam to foster hate, hysteria, and division. The only antidote to fear is fact. We must learn about Islam, including from its faithful adherents. Members of the Springfield Interfaith Alliance are doing just that. We're not only learning from the local Islamic community, but we're also partnering with them in promoting a better community for all people. Hitler's rise to power was facilitated by the silence of many German Christian people. Such growth of rank evil cannot be allowed to take root and grow in our good community here. From pulpits and pews, at lunch tables and across backyard fences, people of faith and good will must speak out and to declare: There is only one God, and all people are brothers and sisters in God's one human family. The purveyors of hate and violence will neither separate us nor drive us into silence and fearfulness. We shall meet evil with love for and solidarity with the persecuted. This is our city, and it's a good community--one that we intend to maintain as a place of hospitality, not hostility.

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