Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events
Sunday, October 15th, 2017, 5:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Tenth Anniversary Celebration of WISDOM
North Congregational Church
See Save the Date Below
August through November, 2017
Exploring Our Religious Landscapes
See Flyer Below
November 12, 2017 3:00 – 6:00 PM
IFLC interfaith panel on Creation
See flyer Below
WISDOM’S TENTH ANNIVERSARY YEAR
Sunday, October 15th
5:00 PM – 8:30 PM
AT NORTH CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH
Displays/Vendors, Dinner, and Delightful Entertainment
$50 per person
Register now on the WISDOM website!
$75 for a display/vendor table
First-ever Shabbat Salaam Focuses on Food, Faith and Friends
By Maayan Hoffman
Two women – one Sephardic Jewish, one Egyptian Muslim – sat together, sharing a dish of Arabic fattoush salad. They laughed together, excited by the discovery that despite their different religions they have much in common, including their favorite foods.
It sounds like a scene out of a fairy tale, given the recent unrest on and around the Temple Mount and the gruesome terror attack that struck a West Bank town over Shabbat. But according to those who spearheaded the first-ever Shabbat Salaam in San Francisco, this connection was neither contrived nor isolated.
More than 65 Muslims, Jews, Christians and atheists came together on Fridaynight, July 21, for a pop-up dinner experience at which attendees dined and conversed about the parallels that exist between all Abrahamic faiths, specifically Judaism and Islam.
“People were reminded they are far more similar than different,” said Mohammad Modarres, who planned the evening on behalf of Interfaith Ventures, in partnership with OneTable’s Bay area hub manager Analucia Lopezrevoredo. He said Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Jews attended, as well as Shia and Sunni Muslims.
The event began at 7 p.m. with a social hour and finger foods – Turkish dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), finger potato knishes, khraime (Moroccan salmon) – and drinks, which prepared attendees to ask questions about faith, community and all things humanity, according to Modarres.
OneTable’s Al Rosenberg, director of communications, said the organization decided to financially back Shabbat Salaam because OneTable saw the event as both “strategic and intentional,” and aligned with its mission of presenting Shabbat as a “beautiful, purposeful and intentional practice that can benefit everyone and can bring peace and rest.”
Rosenberg said, “We want [Shabbat meal] hosts to feel comfortable celebrating Shabbat with whoever – and to feel empowered to bring a little bit of their culture to their friends and community.”
This was the first time OneTable partnered directly with a non-Jewish organization.
Opening remarks were followed by a three-course meal, curated by a local Sephardic-Jewish chef. The highlight of the meal was the main course, Persian choresht e-sabzi (herb stew) and Lebanese kousa mahshi (stuffed squash), made with the first-ever Glatt kosher and halal “interfaith meat.”
“It was the very best meat – black belly lamb, grass fed, free range,” said Modarres, who worked for more than a year to make such a ritual slaughter take place. “It was a logistics nightmare.”
Modarres said the lamb was slaughtered the Monday before the event at an Oregon farm owned by a devout Christian. The first lamb they slaughtered did not turn out to meet Glatt standards and so it was distributed to people in need. The second one hit the mark.
“There we were, three farmers, me, the rabbi-shochet (ritual slaughterer) and the Muslim slaughterer. And the rabbi checks the animal. And when he tells us it passes as Glatt kosher, we were excited knowing that we had created interfaith meat and we all high-five each other,” Modarres said.
Aside from the meat, each dish – from tahini to challah to baklava – was steeped in tradition. The chef came out to explain each course and its significance to her and her family as Jewish, American, Iranian, Israeli Jews – as humans. The Interfaith Ventures website refers to how Muslim and Jewish food roots tango with one another for a multitude of reasons, including economic trade, environmental sacristy and social mobility, and these intertwined histories shape the cultural foods of today. Participants paid $45 per person.
Jewish ritual and Muslim culture was also factored into the experience. Lopezrevoredo, who worked directly with Modarres on the dinner since February 2017, provided ritual cards that explained candle lighting, Kiddush and the blessing over bread. She invited participants to join her in these rituals before the meal. After dinner, participants enjoyed a Muslim-led Sufi performance.
Lopezrevoredo, who grew up in an interfaith family, got involved because she was struck by the growth of Islamophobia since 9/11. During the last presidential election, she felt that those fears became more covert and “because of my personal convictions, history and relations with people that are part of the Islamic faith, I just cannot stand for it.”
Modarres grew up on an “interfaith street” in New Jersey, with Jewish, Christian and Buddhist neighbors, among others. As he grew older he realized that writing cards to Jewish friends on Yom Kippur and Chanukah, or sharing Ramadan dinner with a pastor’s son and daughter, was not commonplace. The negative experiences his family faced after 9/11, which he, too, felt came to the forefront during the last election “left a sour taste in my mouth.”
“You can either pick up a pitch fork and be angry or you can try to create a narrative and space for people to realize their similarities and how they outweigh any differences,” said Modarres.
Modarres and Lopezrevoredo were brought together by a mutual colleague and friend and then they started planning. OneTable’s Rosenberg said the organization braced for backlash. “Anytime you try to bring peace, there are people who want to fight that for some reason,” said Rosenberg.
But in the end, there wasn’t any push back. Rather, participants left the meal with ideas of local volunteer opportunities they could do with their new friends. And Rosenberg said she sees Shabbat Salaam as a prototype that could be replicated in other cities. There is already a Shabbat Salaam planned for Los Angeles and discussions are underway about dinners in Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York and Colorado.
“It really came together,” said Modarres. “I don’t know how else to describe it, except there were Higher Powers that really wanted this.”
A Narrow Bridge
By Rabbi Barry Block
Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav[i] taught: “All the world is a very narrow bridge; the key is not to be paralyzed by fear.”
I have been on a narrow bridge. The Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver, Canada is only wide enough for single file, spanning its 230 feet, hanging 460 feet above a river gorge. Not afraid of heights, I wasn’t scared when I crossed, enjoying magnificent scenery. Trusting that engineering had permitted millions to cross before me, I never considered the possibility of not arriving safely on the other side.
Our world, though, is full of less secure, narrower bridges.
When a devastating hurricane drops four feet of rain or threatens deadly winds, a person’s world can suddenly become a frighteningly narrow bridge – from security to survival, from a roof over one’s head to the peril of homelessness.
When armed white supremacists march in the thousands, people of color rightly fear for their lives. Is America a safe home?
When we hear the phrase, “Muslim ban,” America may quickly become precarious foreign land, even for a citizen.
When thousands, perhaps millions, cheer a border wall, we may ask: Why is America narrowing its bridge to the world?
When Charlottesville marchers shout, “Jews will not replace it,” American Jews wonder: “Will we have to get on a narrow bridge again, hoping to arrive safely at our next land of refuge?”
When young immigrants – who know America as their only home; and who have lived honest, productive lives in this land of opportunity – nevertheless face the prospect of deportation, they need look no further than their parents to see the narrow bridge that life in this country can be.
When a Black-majority school board is replaced by one white man, sixty years after the hard-fought but minimal desegregation of Little Rock Central High School, we may be frightened by the answer to the question: What temporal power is keeping this bridge from collapsing?
When LGBTQ Americans in many states can legally lose their jobs solely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, the supports on the bridge of LGBTQ life in this country, which seemed to be strengthening, may become wobblier yet again.
When the white working class sees industry change along with culture, they wonder if the sturdy highway of their lives has become a rickety bridge.
When millions upon millions of Americans, and billions around the globe, do not have access to adequate quantities of nutritious food or to excellent medical care, living paycheck to paycheck, if there’s a paycheck at all, then the slightest unexpected misfortune can destroy the bridge of life beneath one’s feet.
When climate change is denied, even as historically devastating storms rage, Rabbi Nachman’s words seem particularly prescient: The whole world is on a very narrow bridge, between a healthy environment and global self-destruction.
We who are on this bridge – and make no mistake, we are all on it – live in fear, and not because we are afraid of heights. We know about people who have crossed these bridges in the past. Too many did fall to their deaths. We cannot be secure about the engineering of the bridge we must walk to traverse oppression.
Tonight, we have come together to push the bridges’ boundaries, to make each one less narrow, and to shore up the infrastructure.
If an undocumented immigrant links arms with a Muslim, then the Muslim is not alone when her people are maligned, and the immigrant may imagine refuge rather than deportation.
If a cisgender woman of color brings a transgender woman with her into the restroom, then the transgender woman may feel more secure in her place of vulnerability, and the person of color will know she’s not the only target of white supremacists’ slogans.
If a white working class American and a descendant of slaves share their anxieties about our nation’s future, each may build a better future with the other.
If the wealthy nations of the world, beginning with our own, will take responsibility for reducing humanity’s carbon footprint, then we may all take responsibility for defeating the climate injustice whose victims are disproportionately the poorest people on Earth.
If the person of faith and the unbeliever share the diverse sources of their comfort, perhaps we can hearten one another.
We do not know what the months and the years ahead may require of us. Perhaps churches will need to transform parish halls into sanctuaries from deportation. Perhaps a synagogue will need to shelter threatened Muslims. Every single one of us will have to decide: Am I going to collaborate with oppression? Am I going to remain silent, imagining there’s nothing I can do? Or am I going to use my body and soul, my voice and any power I have, to stand in the way of injustice?
We do know this: All the world is a very narrow bridge, and the only way to conquer fear is to emulate the Children of Israel at the Red Sea, “joining hands, marching together,” to a Land of Promise.
We do know this: In order to fight injustice, we must be disturbed by it. If we are not personally suffering, then we are obligated to summon empathy for those who are. We must know the heart of the stranger, for all of us have been strangers in one Egypt or another.
Nearly two millennia ago, the rabbis of the Talmud made a decree about those who live in a community beset by suffering, a world like our own, on a very narrow bridge. Hear now the rabbis’ teaching: “When the community is immersed in suffering, a person may not say: I will go to my home and I will eat and drink, and peace be upon you, my soul. . . Rather, a person should be distressed together with the community. . . And anyone who is distressed together with the community will merit seeing the consolation of the community.”[ii]
A task lies before us. Let me suggest that each of us seek to sit down for a meal with a person different from ourselves, a person we may not know well, a person who may be afflicted during these difficult days in ways that we are not. May we enjoy one another’s company, but let us also hear each other’s pain. Let the bread we break together also be our bread of shared affliction. Then, may we build a bridge – a strong, broad bridge – and may we be consoled, together.
Rabbi Barry Block serves Congregation B’nai Israel in Little Rock, Arkansas.
They came to celebrate diversity, take a stand against hate and intolerance and strive for a safe, inclusive community. Residents from Canton and beyond gathered Tuesday evening in Heritage Park for a combined National Night Out and Not In Our Town event, both dedicated to building strong communities and making neighborhoods safer, better places to live. Representatives of the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs came from the Canton Mosque, serving up potato samosas and dates, providing henna art and a calligraphy station where visitors could see what their names look like spelled in Arabic.
Sana Soubani, a teacher at Crescent Academy International at the mosque, brought son Ammar Nusier, 9, to the event and, like other Muslims, she talked with visitors.
“Islam teaches us that all people are created equal. There is no difference between race and gender and background,” Soubani said. “All people are the same. We are here (at the event) because we like to put our faith in action. We are proactive. This is rooted in our religion from the beginning of time.”
Not far away, the Hindu youth group Yuva Bharathi welcomed visitors while, in a separate booth, Crime Stoppers of Michigan volunteer Mary Groat explained how witnesses can report crimes anonymously by calling 800-SPEAK-UP or by logging onto http://www.1800speakup.
Crime Stoppers has what Groat called “a fantastic partnership” with the Canton Public Safety Department, which also had police and fire representatives at the event. As a child took his turn getting on a police motorcycle, Deputy Police Chief Craig Wilsher said the gathering was a good way to interact with residents in a non-emergency situation and build community relations.
Police canine Hoss, accompanied by Officer Bryan Szostak, sure commanded his share of attention, with several children petting him simultaneously at times and others waiting their turn. “They love the dog, especially kids who don’t have pets at home,” Szostak said. Kristine Wiley brought children Curtis, 9, and Kaidyn, 8, to the event. She wanted Curtis, in particular, to have positive interactions with police officers, saying he is fearful of them. With face painting, arts and crafts, a bounce house, live musicians and other offerings, Curtis wasn’t sure when asked what he liked most about National Night Out. “I want to see everything,” he said.
Mohammed Rahman, 22, came from Detroit as a community organizer of Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote-Michigan. He hoped to bring attention to the group and encourage more people within the Asian-American community to get involved in efforts such as voting. “Our goal is to get Asian Americans more civically engaged,” Rahman said, whether by voting, organizing candidate forums, contacting elected officials or other activities.
“It’s really important for us to tell our elected officials what is important to us,” he added.
The two-hour National Night Out and Not In Our Town gathering was organized by the Canton Police Department, Canton Public Library, Canton Response to Hate Crimes Coalition and Canton Leisure Services. Library Director Eva Davis worked at a booth where passersby stopped to sign a banner to promote tolerance. “They are pledging to support a safe, inclusive community,” she said.
Organizers said the event was coordinated by the Canton Response To Hate Crimes Coalition, which is a group of law enforcement officials, faith-based organizations, public schools and community representatives committed to raising awareness of hate crimes, bias incidents and bullying. The coalition also offers support to victims and works to restore a sense of community when incidents do occur.
National Night Out is part of a nationwide effort that involves thousands communities in the United States, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases. It is in its 33rd year. For more, go to https://natw.org/.
Not In Our Town is nationwide effort to stop hate and bullying while building safe, inclusive communities. For more, go to https://www.niot.org/
A peaceful, persistent response to injustice
BIC GENEVA – Thirty years ago, the Baha’i community of Iran embarked on a remarkable endeavor. Denied access to formal education by the country’s authorities after their numerous appeals, they set up an informal program of higher education in basements and living rooms throughout the country with the help of Baha’i professors and academics that had been fired from their posts because of their faith. This gradually came to be known as the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE).
Since its inception, BIHE has helped educate thousands of individuals, many of whom have been accepted into nearly 100 universities around the world to pursue graduate studies. Many BIHE graduates that complete their post-graduate studies abroad will return to Iran to serve their communities. Thanks to advances in technology, BIHE’s students are now taught by professors from across the globe. Those who offer their expertise and knowledge to the education of Baha’i youth in Iran, have witnessed first-hand the students’ high ideals and commitment to the pursuit of knowledge.
“The Baha’i response to injustice is neither to succumb in resignation nor to take on the characteristics of the oppressor,” explained Diane Ala’i, representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva, quoting a letter from the Universal House of Justice.
“This,” she said, “is the fundamental definition of constructive resilience.”
“Of course, the Baha’is are not the only ones that have responded non-violently and positively to oppression, but they are finding a different way of doing that, which is more focused on their role in serving the community around them together with others,” said Ms. Ala’i.
Despite efforts by the Iranian authorities to disrupt BIHE’s operation by raiding hundreds of Baha’i homes and offices associated with it, confiscating study materials, and arresting and imprisoning dozens of lecturers, it has grown significantly over the past three decades. It relies on a variety of knowledgeable individuals both in and outside of Iran to enable youth to study a growing number of topics in the sciences, social sciences, and arts. Overall, not only has BIHE survived thirty years, it has thrived. Studying at BIHE is not easy. Because it’s not a public university, there is no funding available, and many students hold down full-time jobs. It is common to travel across the country to go to monthly classes in Tehran. Sometimes, students will have to commute from a home on one side of the city to the other in the middle of the day, because these are the only spaces available to hold classes. Despite these logistical challenges, students meet high academic standards.
“I have talked to BIHE students who said when their teacher was arrested and put in jail and all their materials were confiscated, they would get together for class just the same,” said Saleem Vaillancourt, the coordinator of the Education is Not a Crime campaign, which brings attention to the issue of denial of education to the Baha’is in Iran. “These students continued studying together, despite the fact that they didn’t have a teacher. This was their attitude, it didn’t seem remarkable to them. They just said this is what we have to do, because they had a commitment to the process.”
Universal education is a core belief of the Baha’i Faith, and when the authorities in Iran sought to deny Baha’i students this critical and fundamental right, the Baha’i community pursued a peaceful solution-never for a moment conceding their ideals, never surrendering to their oppressor, and never opposing the government. Instead, for decades, it has been seeking constructive solutions, a show of its longstanding resilience. In Iran, persecution of the Baha’is is official state policy. A 1991 memorandum approved by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei states clearly that Baha’is “must be expelled from universities, either in the admission process or during the course of their studies, once it becomes known that they are Baha’is.” Other forms of persecution torment the Baha’is in Iran as well. An open letter dated 6 September 2016 to Iran’s President from the BIC draws his attention to the economic oppression faced by the Baha’is there. The letter highlights the stark contradiction between statements espoused by the Iranian government regarding economic justice, equality for all, and reducing unemployment on the one hand, and the unrelenting efforts to impoverish a section of its own citizens on the other. “The Baha’i community in Iran wasn’t going to let itself go quietly into the night. It wasn’t going to allow itself to be suffocated in this way,” said Mr. Vaillancourt.
A distinctly non-adversarial approach to oppression fundamentally characterizes the Baha’i attitude towards social change. The Baha’i response to oppression draws on a conviction in the oneness of humanity. It recognizes the need for coherence between the spiritual and material dimensions of life. It is based on a long-term perspective characterized by faith, patience, and perseverance. It at once calls for obedience to the law and a commitment to meet hatred and persecution with love and kindness. And, ultimately, this posture has at its very center an emphasis on service to the welfare of one’s fellow human beings. “I think we see in the world today the breakdown of communities that people would not have thought could happen so easily. We’ve come to realize that living side by side is not enough. We need to live together and know one another, and the best way to know one another is to start working for the betterment of society,” said Ms. Ala’i.
“As the Baha’is in Iran have begun to do this in a more conscious way, other Iranians have come to know their Baha’i neighbors and understand that much of what they had heard about the Baha’is from the government and clergy were lies. As they have become more involved in the life of the communities where they live, the Baha’is have witnessed an immense change in the attitude of other Iranians towards them.”
The Baha’i response to oppression is not oppositional and ultimately strives toward higher degrees of unity. Its emphasis is not only on collective action, but on inner transformation.
This strategy is a conscious one employed by the Baha’i community. Going beyond the tendency to react to oppression, war, or natural disaster with apathy or anger, the Baha’i response counters inhumanity with patience, deception with truthfulness, cruelty with good will, and keeps its attention on long-term, beneficial, and productive action.
The Baha’i Institute for Higher Education embodies all of these elements.
“BIHE is an extraordinary achievement,” commented Mr. Vaillancourt. “Perhaps the least known, longest-running, and most successful form of peacefully answering oppression that history has ever seen. It sets the best example I know of for this particular Baha’i attitude to answering persecution or answering the challenging forces of our time, where we try to have an attitude, posture, and response of constructive resilience.”
All The Swastikas And Broken Glass
In the two weeks since white supremacists marched
on Charlottesville, more than two dozen anti-Semitic incidents have occurred across the U.S.
By Christopher Mathias
On Aug. 14 – two days after the nation watched in horror as hundreds of well-armed neo-Nazis and other white supremacists held a violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia – a 17-year-old boy in downtown Boston allegedly picked up a rock and threw it through one of the six tall glass towers that make up the New England Holocaust Memorial. Each tower is made of 22 glass panels and engraved with thousands of numbers representing the 6 million Jews murdered by Nazis during World War II. The rock reduced one of those panels to tiny glass shards strewn across the sidewalk, later swept into dustpans by city workers.
A day later, an unknown person shattered the glass doors at the K’hal Adas Yereim synagogue in Queens, New York – just hours after the nation watched in disbelief as the president of the United States described the white supremacists in Charlottesville as “fine people.” The synagogue is less than 3 miles from the president’s childhood home.
A K’hal Adas Yereim member sent a photo of the shattered doors to the Documenting Hate project, a partnership between ProPublica and numerous news outlets, including HuffPost. A New York City Police Department spokesperson says the department is investigating the incident, but won’t say whether a suspect has been identified.
Across the country in Alameda, California, on Aug. 17, a security camera captured another unidentified vandal throwing rocks at Temple Israel, shattering multiple windows. Since the rally in Charlottesville, the Anti-Defamation League has tracked dozens of anti-Semitic incidents across the United States. It’s the sight of shattered glass at places of Jewish remembrance and worship, though, that is fraught with a terrifying poignance.
On the night of Nov. 9, 1938, and into the next day, mobs in Germany massacred nearly 100 Jews and smashed the windows of Jewish businesses and synagogues. The night became known as Kristallnacht, “The Night of Broken Glass”, and was a preview of the Nazi effort to exterminate Jews from the Earth. At the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville two weeks ago, HuffPost witnessed Americans celebrating this Nazi legacy, proudly waving swastika flags and wearing T-shirts quoting Adolf Hitler. They chanted “Jews will not replace us!” and the Third Reich slogan “Blood and soil!” They carried signs with messages like “The Jewish Media Is Going Down” and “The Goyim Know.”
Worshippers at Charlottesville’s Congregation Beth Israel watched in terror as neo-Nazis paraded by screaming “There’s the synagogue!” and “Sieg Heil!” Online threats to burn down the synagogue forced congregants to remove Torahs, including a Holocaust scroll, from the building as a precaution.
“This is 2017 in the United States of America,” the congregation’s president, Alan Zimmerman, later wrote on ReformJudaism.org.
The anti-Semitic aims of the rally – which the Anti-Defamation League has called the largest of its kind in over a decade – were apparent the day before it started, when organizer and white nationalist leader Richard Spencer published his “Charlottesville statement.” This malevolent manifesto described Jews as an “ethno-religious people distinct from Europeans” who are resistant to assimilation and are hostile to non-Jews.
Now, the Anti-Defamation League is concerned that the large display of hatred in Charlottesville “could inspire copycat incidents or acts of hate against Jews or Jewish institutions in other parts of the country,” the group said in a statement.
The ADL provided a lengthy list to HuffPost of anti-Semitic incidents over the past two weeks. A spokesman for the group says the number of incidents is “higher than usual” when compared with other recent two-week periods.
The ADL cautions that it is impossible to directly link these anti-Semitic incidents to what happened in Charlottesville “without knowing the full motives of the perpetrators behind the attacks.”
Still, the past two weeks have brought rising American anti-Semitism into focus. The ADL says anti-Semitic incidents surged by 34 percent in 2016 compared with the previous year. In the first quarter of 2017, the number of incidents jumped 86 percent compared with the same period in 2016.
The FBI also maintains data on hate crimes and, while its figures are incomplete, they show that Jews were the most-targeted religious minority in the U.S. between 2010 and 2015.
And Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the ADL, told HuffPost this week that his organization has also tracked a rise in recruitment and membership among white supremacist organizations.
“One of the most significant things about Charlottesville is that it showed there’s a young generation of white supremacists willing to openly display their hate and anti-Semitism in public and in full view,” he said.
“It’s alarming to see a younger generation that’s not aged Klansmen hiding behind white hoods,” he continued, adding that “the majority of attendees appeared to be young, in their 20s and unafraid to show their faces.”
These young white supremacists, he said, have been “emboldened by this climate in the country, in an environment where the president essentially validated them and the ‘fine people’ among their ranks.”
Donald Trump won the presidency despite racist comments throughout his campaign. As a candidate and now as president, he has routinely signaled his support of white nationalism and been slow to condemn terror committed by white, right-wing extremists. The Charlottesville rally also concluded with a terror attack. Twenty-year-old James Alex Fields Jr., a member of the white supremacist group Vanguard America, is accused of driving a car through a crowd of counterprotesters. The attack killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injured 19 others. In an interview with ABC News in the following days, two of Fields’ former classmates recalled visiting a Nazi concentration camp in Dachau, Germany, with him in 2015. Standing in a place where Nazis had systematically murdered at least 28,000 people, most of them Jews, Fields’ friends recalled him issuing a chilling statement: “This is where the magic happened.”
Clergy march in Washington against white supremacy
WASHINGTON (RNS) – From Protestant preachers to Jewish cantors to Catholic nuns, religious leaders of a range of faiths demonstrated in the nation’s capital for racial justice, criticizing the silence of some within their own ranks on the subject of white supremacy and questioning the morality of Trump administration policies.
Wearing stoles, robes and yarmulkes, the participants proceeded Monday (Aug. 28) on a 1.7-mile route from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to the Justice Department. Organizers estimated close to 3,000 ministers took part, a larger turnout than suggested by the title of the event: “One Thousand Ministers March for Justice.”
“We wanted to say this nation is in moral trouble,” the Rev. Al Sharpton told those assembled at the King memorial.
One protester carried a sign saying “Repeal and Replace Trump Pence,” a reference to the efforts to halt the Affordable Care Act signed into law during the Obama administration. Another’s sign said “Black Lives Matter To This Rabbi.”
The march was originally planned to protest increased hate crimes, mass incarceration and discrimination and to call on the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to address those issues.
But the recent violence in Charlottesville, Va., where neo-Nazi, white supremacist and white nationalist protesters clashed with anti-racism activists, prompted increased interest in the gathering.
Sister Patricia Chappell, executive director of Pax Christi USA, decried white supremacy but said, as a black Catholic nun, she believes “even our institutional church is racist” and needs to address some of its policies and practices.
Sharpton’s National Action Network spearheaded the march on the 54th anniversary of the March on Washington. Many of the people – from Buddhists to Baptists- had planned to be at the march before the Charlottesville events spurred more to join them. Some speakers ticked off a number of other issues that concern them, such as criminal justice, voter suppression and health care reform.
“You’re going to see the victims of Nazism, the victims of white supremacy march today to the Justice Department,” Sharpton said just before leading the march through downtown Washington. “And say we don’t care what party’s in. We are not going to be out.”
Sharpton said many of the people – from Buddhists to Baptists- had planned to be at the march before the Charlottesville events spurred more to join them.
The Rev. Jamal-Harrison Bryant, an African Methodist Episcopal pastor from Baltimore, criticized evangelical ministers who support and advise the president “and declare erroneously an outright lie – that Donald Trump is a man of God.” “He is not God’s man,” Bryant said. “They do not reflect the body of Christ at large.”
The Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners magazine and social justice organization, said the demonstration was “theological” because “the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith” were at stake. He called on clergy to speak out against white supremacy.
“We have to preach from every pulpit in America that racism is America’s original sin,” he said.
Wallis added that Trump should repent for pardoning former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt for his treatment of undocumented immigrants.
The interfaith crowd took part in a call-and-response conversation with speakers who urged them to sing, recite Scripture and high-five each other in shows of unity.
“Let me tell all the white supremacists and KKK and everybody that America is a multifaith country – Do you all agree?” said Sikh leader Rajwant Singh, who was greeted by cheers. “America belongs to all of us.”
Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, recalled that Jews marched 5,000 years ago “out of Pharaoh’s slavery and bondage in Egypt.”
“And we know today that we do have the power to break the bondage of the modern pharaoh,” he said.
The National Action Network, a predominantly black, Christian organization, also was an organizer of a 50th anniversary commemoration of the March on Washington that was held in 2013 and drew throngs to the National Mall to remember the event that featured King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Monday’s march originally focused on clergy but some groups encouraged all people of faith to attend.
Some clergy who have supported or advised Trump gathered at the National Press Club instead of at the King Memorial and issued a statement about the need for the government and religious officials to do more to bridge racial divides.
“Naturally, we need government, business, law enforcement, and community stakeholders to partner with us,” their statement read. “The glue that will keep our nation together, though, is the Church and faith leaders.”