Faith-based and humanist groups call on government to reaffirm American values

“Although the U.S. is a nation of immigrants and has a long history of welcoming refugees from diverse lands, we also have a history of different periods of xenophobia and exclusion, including the Chinese Exclusion Act, the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and the rejection of Jewish refugees from Nazi persecution and genocide. None of these actions made our country more secure, and we can be certain that the great majority of our people do not support a repeat of such episodes.”
—Maha Elgenaidi, Executive Director of the Islamic Networks Group

“Any attempt to ban Muslim refugees based on their religion betrays our values and sends the un-American message that there are second-class faiths. Our country, founded by immigrants who established religious freedom as a bedrock principle, is better than this. A threat to anyone’s religious liberty is a threat to everyone’s religious liberty, and we as Baptists stand with those facing religious persecution around the world, regardless of their faith.”
—Amanda Tyler, Executive Director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty

San Jose – The Know Your Neighbor: Multifaith Encounters campaign, a program of the Islamic Networks Group (ING), released the following statement today in reaction to executive orders signed by President Donald Trump restricting immigration from a number of Middle Eastern and African countries.

The executive orders issued today and earlier this week by President Donald Trump require us to reaffirm basic values that we share with the great majority of Americans:

  • Respect for diversity, pluralism, and religious freedom: Although the executive orders do not explicitly mention Muslims or their faith, several provisions target Muslims. As such, they violate the principles embodied in the First Amendment and our country’s commitment to religious neutrality.
  • Care for the stranger and the needy: Except for the native peoples, since its founding the United States has been a nation of immigrants. Our country has a long tradition of welcoming and supporting immigrants and the needy; the rejection of refugees fleeing horrific violence flies in the face of the obligation to help and the hospitality that the American people have traditionally shown to those in need.
  • Civil liberties: While these orders do not explicitly target particular groups, they clearly impact primarily one religion (Muslim) and one ethnicity (Latino). Singling out these groups reinforces and encourages existing prejudice and discrimination against them, including U.S. citizens and documented immigrants belonging to these groups.
    Unity and solidarity: Policies whose effect is to single out specific religious or ethnic groups violate the sense of national unity and solidarity that allows the diverse people of our nation to live in peace and harmony.

Although these measures purport to deal with the threat of terrorism, there is little evidence to support this claim. What they do, however, is to cast a dark cloud over the entire American Muslim population, making it all too clear that their significant contributions to American life are not welcomed. This impacts women in headscarves who have been the object of increased harassment and students in schools who have seen a rise in bullying in recent years due to anti-Muslim rhetoric which will increase with these policies. In response to the Executive Orders, we faith-based and humanist organizations call for an increase in:

Interfaith engagement, including both interfaith dialogues and events bringing people of diverse traditions together for mutual encounter and learning. To get started, see this page.
Education about Muslims and Islam, including presentations by Muslim speakers and “meet a Muslim” events in houses of worship or other public venues. To get started, see this page.
Commitment to and training in being “upstanders” who respond supportively to incidents of hate and bigotry.

This is a time to come together as a community and uphold our sacred values. Therefore, in responding to the current situation, and to prepare for possible actions in the future that may likewise call our fundamental values into question, we commit ourselves, and call on all who share our concerns, to respect the principle of nonviolence in thought, word, and deed.

We will maintain an attitude of charity and openness to all, including those with whom we most profoundly disagree. We will seek to understand their motivations and assume that they are sincerely seeking what is right unless presented with clear evidence to the contrary. If we are people of prayer, then we will pray for their well-being and for wisdom for them and for ourselves.
In our statements, we will condemn actions but not persons. We will speak firmly but respectfully of and with those whose words and actions we oppose.

Signed:

United Religions Initiative
alongside
ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal
Alliance of Baptists
Alliance for Shared Values
American Conference on Diversity
American Muslim Advisory Council
Arizona Jews for Justice
Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty
Bay Area Interfaith Connect
Bend the Arc Jewish Action
Bridges of Faith Trialogue, Cincinnati
California Institute for Human Science Interfaith Circle
Center for Inquiry
Church World Service
Colorado Muslim Speakers Bureau
Council of Islamic Organizations of Kentucky
Delaware Valley Speakers Bureau
Euphrates Institute
First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Palo Alto, California
Global Alliance Interfaith Networks
Global Immersion Project
Interfaith Alliance
Interfaith Arkansas
Interfaith Center at the Presidio
Interfaith Center of New York
Interfaith Council of Alameda County
Interfaith Council of Central Florida
Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, Ann Arbor
InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit
Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston
Interfaith Paths to Peace
Interfaith Youth Core
Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati
Islamic Education & Resources Network (ILearn)
Islamic Networks Group
Islamic Society of Greater Houston
Islamic Speakers Bureau of Alabama
Islamic Speakers Bureau of Arizona
Islamic Speakers Bureau of Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
Islamic Speakers Bureau of Edmonton, Canada
Islamic Speakers Bureau of Greater Houston
Islamic Speakers Bureau of Saint Louis Islamic Speakers Bureau of San Diego
Islamic Speakers Bureau of Santa Barbara
Jewish Community Relations Council of the San Francisco Bay Area
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest
Marin Interfaith Council
Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue
Minnesota Interfaith Power and Light
Monmouth Center for World Religions and Ethical Thought
Muslim Coalition of Connecticut
Muslim Community Center, East Bay
National Council of Churches
National Sikh Campaign
Network of Spiritual Progressives
New Jersey Islamic Networks Group
Pacifica Institute
Pico Union Project
Religions for Peace USA
Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism
San Francisco Interfaith Council
Seattle Islamic Speakers Bureau
Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign
Silicon Valley Interreligious Council
Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom
South Coast Interfaith Council
Speakers Bureau of Nebraska
Spokane Interfaith Council
Tikkun Magazine
Tri City Interfaith Council
The United Church of Christ
United Religions Initiative
United We Dream Houston
Uri L’Tzedek: The Jewish Orthodox Social Justice Movement
Valley Beit Midrash: The Jewish Pluralistic Center
Washington Ethical Society
Welcoming Gainesville
Wisdom Circle Ministry
The Know Your Neighbor: Multifaith Encounters (KYN-ME) campaign is a program of the Islamic Networks Group (ING) whose mission is to increase religious literacy and build relations among Americans of all backgrounds. In pursuit of this mission, the KYN-ME campaign, which was first initiated in partnership with the White House in 2015, aims to build interreligious and intercultural understanding, empathy, and respect by promoting face-to-face encounter between people of diverse faiths and worldviews. Know Your Neighbor: Multifaith Encounters works to foster understanding and dialogue by encouraging Americans to get to “Know Your Neighbor.”

Mandala: A Symbol of Tangible Hope

“What gives you #TangibleHope in the world today? How do your values and/or belief systems come into conversation with this #TangibleHope?

Linda Carleton, educator, minister and founder of Melita House for refugees responds:

In the events and rancor of recent weeks, I have had moments when I’ve almost forgotten that the world is never outside the sacred web of love that offers tangible hope. The thing that most reliably brings me back from the edge of despair is the mandala, that visible sign of wholeness and completion. I find mandalas everywhere: in architecture, on billboards, in the kaleidoscopic hubcaps of passing cars. I color mandalas. I keep a mandala blog and every Tuesday morning I offer a Mandala Prayer Circle for people waiting in line for soap or diapers or used clothing at Saint Elizabeth’s Jubilee Center in Portland, Maine (also known as “Saint E’s”).

tangiblehope-mandala

The folks who visit Saint E’s come from many stripes of life. They speak different languages and adhere to different religions. They have conflicting political beliefs and face a variety of daunting personal and social challenges. But week after week, they set these differences aside to color mandala ornaments as prayer for themselves, their loved ones, or their aching world.

…the mandala is a circle, a sacred symbol in virtually every culture.

What is it about the mandala that offers such a profound expression of tangible hope? To begin with, the mandala is a circle, a sacred symbol in virtually every culture. To psychologist C.G. Jung, the circle was the most basic archetype, representing perfection, eternity and the divine Self. In Sanskrit, the mandala represents the structure of life itself. The Mandala Project describes it as “A cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds.” In Navaho sand paintings, the mandala becomes a vehicle for physical as well as emotional healing. In the Christian Church, the circle suggests the promise of wholeness and eternity in symbols as varied as the labyrinth, wedding rings, Advent wreaths and rose windows.

To color mandalas is to enter into the spiritual dance that perpetually draws us towards God and drives us out into the world again.

Drawing or coloring mandalas creates a liminal space that allows us to rest within this circle. As soon as we begin work on a mandala, we enter into dialogue with the bindu, its sacred center. The bindu is a bit like a black hole. It is an infinitesimal point that inexorably draws us in, offering a kind of portal into the heart of the divine. However, drawing mandalas cannot stop at the bindu. Just as the contemplative life leads both inward and outward, making mandalas propels us outward from the center to its edges and beyond. To color mandalas is to enter into the spiritual dance that perpetually draws us towards God and drives us out into the world again.

Now when folks come to us at Saint E’s, they are not thinking about Jung, or bindus, or the perpetual dance of spiritual life. But fortunately, you don’t have to think about any of this to experience the serenity of working with mandalas. Try it! You can just cut out a mandala from a coloring book or download it from Google, write on the back the name of a person or situation you’d like to hold in prayer, take out your markers, paints or pencils and color. You can put it on your refrigerator, or pin it to your wall, or use Modge-Podge to attach it to a wooden disc and make an ornament. However you do it, you will have spent time in communion with the sacred circle. And you’ll have a tangible symbol to remind you of it.

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linda_carleton_tangiblehope_diaryLinda Carleton is a former teacher of history and comparative religions and minister. She founded Melita House, a refugee welcome house in Guilford, Connecticut.  After retirement, she moved to Maine with her husband Peter where she now paints, writes, leads mandala workshops and teaches English to immigrants. She is the author of Elmina’s Fire, to be published in June, and is the Secretary for the Leadership Circle of the Abbey of HOPE (a #TangibleHope Campaign partner). Linda is perpetually seeking new ways to integrate her own Christian faith with the world’s diverse spiritual teachings and to help the world heal from its history of religious abuse.

Every Tuesday, the #TangibleHope Diaries series features responses from North American grassroots peacebuilders on what gives them tangible hope in the world today. See you next week! Learn more here.