Muslim, Jewish, Christian Leaders Commit to Countering Anti-Jewish, Anti-Muslim Bigotry
Heads of national religious movements across faiths – including the General Ministers and Presidents of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ – sign joint declaration
WASHINGTON – In light of the current crisis in the Middle East, anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish discrimination in the United States are on the rise. Prominent U.S. faith leaders across traditions convened December 19 to jointly acknowledge and address the rise in identity-based hate, and commit to building a nation where all people, no matter their faith or cultural background, are treated with fairness, dignity and respect.
“We know this is a moment where the proliferation of hate is extraordinary,” said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, at the gathering held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. “People deserve to be able to walk down the street – whether in Burlington, Vt., or Victoria, Texas, or wherever they are – with the assumption they can walk freely. So, if we are in a community in the United States where walking down the street wearing a keffiyeh or a kippah, speaking Arabic or Hebrew, if those are endangering practices, we are all in that moment of danger. Since October 7, the increase in antisemitism has been quite dramatic, and the corollary is true about anti-Muslim violence.”
He discussed how in 2017, after the Victoria Islamic Center was firebombed, the president of the Reform synagogue gave the imam of the mosque a set of keys to the synagogue, inviting him to use the Jewish house of prayer as his community’s own. “I share this story because it is part of the trauma of this moment, but at the same time it’s the possibility of this moment. It’s not as if we don’t have clues about how to be the people of faith that God wants us to be. To build those bonds in a moment of crisis, we can actually lean on that.”
Through a joint declaration read at the gathering, faith leaders from diverse backgrounds united in a show of interfaith solidarity amidst the growing crisis in the Middle East and at home in the United States, dedicating themselves to preventing the alarming escalation of anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish discrimination and violence in the U.S.
The declaration, an initiative of the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign, is now public, and faith leaders across the United States who wish to add their names are invited to do so. The declaration has been affirmed by many Shoulder to Shoulder’s National and Community and Congregational Network members. The General Ministers and Presidents of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ, the Rev. Teresa Hord Owens and the Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia Thompson, respectively, are signatories of the declaration.
The event featured a panel discussion with faith leaders representing a variety of national religious movements, including Rabbi Jacobs, Imam Talib Shareef, President and Imam of Masjid Muhammad, The Nation’s Mosque, in Washington, D.C.; and Rev. Teresa “Terri” Hord Owens, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). They discussed the state of affairs domestically and internationally, how each of their faith communities has been affected, and their vision for a safer future.
“Affirming our shared humanity is not and should not ever be conditional, controversial, polarizing, or divisive – it should be our starting place, our grounding, and our loud and clear uniting call to action,”said Nina Fernando, executive director of the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign, who moderated today’s discussion. “Faith leaders from many traditions are coming together in interfaith solidarity and a shared commitment to build bridges and protect each others’ human dignity. The Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign’s work is harder now – and also more needed now – than ever before. At this time where many feel deep pain and desperation for an end to violence, our team and our leadership are doing everything we can to meet this unprecedented moment and ensure this crisis does not break us apart.”
Imam Talib Shareef, president and imam of Masjid Muhammad, The Nation’s Mosque, in Washington, D.C., said,“Love and hate cannot occupy the same space at the same time. If you want a healthy society and if you want to heal society, we need to stand shoulder to shoulder and embrace each other. Bring the wall down to see beyond the labels above humans. We’re the same.”
Added the Rev. Teresa Hord Owens, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), “This crisis is happening when we’re living in a resurgence – and it is a resurgence, it’s not the beginning – of Christian nationalism. I’m very concerned as a Christian leader about its resurgence. It’s the same Christian nationalism that gave rise to the KKK during Reconstruction.
“In other words, your disagreement with me should not sanction my destruction or even my disrespect. Everyone has a right to exist, has a right to be. We must speak up for one another in the name of love. Imagine if we in solidarity could come against policies and actions that are othering anyone in this country. While I’m not going to agree with every biblical interpretation that you offer, that shouldn’t keep me from fighting for your survival.”
The Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign: Standing with American Muslims, Advancing American Ideals is a national multifaith coalition of religious denominations and faith-based organizations who are committed to ending anti-Muslim hatred, discrimination, and violence in the United States of America.