The Islamic Society of Framingham
The Islamic Center of Boston, Wayland
Islamic Masumeem Center of New England, Hopkinton
To our dear neighbors in faith,
To our utter horror we woke to the news, as you had, to the horrific killing and wounding of worshipers in houses of God in Christchurch in New Zealand. The hate that mustered these killings is sadly experienced in many places in the world today, including our own nation, the United States. They express themselves through the wounds of Islamophobia, antisemitism, overt racism, and xenophobia.
In recent months our own communities have not been immune to some form of this social hatred toward our neighbors and friends. As clergy of Holliston, we stand with you and for you in this most grevious time. We offer our prayer to God as he holds our grief and fear in these challenging times.
We also offer our hands and our hearts with the hope that together we can heal these wounds of hate in our own communities, and together with others, throughout our nation and world. We want to reach out to you in this difficult time and together say that we utterly condemn these murderous actions and pledge to work in bringing all of our religious and nonreligious communities together in dialogue and cooperation.
The use of social media as a tool of terrorism cannot be overlooked. The heinous nature of the original attack is only compounded by the use of social media to spread further fear and terror in its wake. The use of social media, and the connection to online hate speech groups, is a clear reminder to us that violent extremists of all stripes are using social media to spread hate speech, and incitement to violence. We must do more in our communities to combat online hate and religious bias.
We extend our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of those killed and wounded in New Zealand, as we do so with you and your communities in the Metrowest area, and throughout the country. "Give glad tidings to those who patiently endure, who say when afflicted with a calamity: "To Allah we belong and to Him we return." They are those on whom (descend) blessings and mercy from their Lord, and they are the ones who receive guidance." (Surah Baqarah; 2:155-157)
Rev. Bonnie Steinroeder
Rev. Mark Peterson
Rabbi Steve Edleman-Blank
Fr. Carl Chudy
Rev. Sarah Robbins-Cole
Rabbi Jennifer Rudin
Mr. Hussam Syed
Mr. Larry Maloney
METROWEST INTERFAITH DIALOGUE PROJECT
By Larry Maloney
Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive,” wrote CS Lewis, one of the last century’s most noted Christian writers.
Yet few people will ever encounter the daunting forgiveness challenge that Simon Wiesenthal, the famous Nazi hunter, faced during his imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp. Witnessing the deaths of his fellow Jewish prisoners on an almost daily basis, the young Wiesenthal one day finds himself face to face with a dying SS soldier who asks Simon’s forgiveness for the Nazi trooper’s role in the slaughter of 300 Jews in a Russian town.
Wiesenthal recalls that incident and his personal struggle with the question of forgiveness in The Sunflower, a book that has become central to Holocaust studies since it was first published in 1976. The book asks readers what they would have done in Simon’s place and includes perspectives from 40 commentators, including well-known theologians, writers, professors, as well as Holocaust survivors.
On February 24, more than 30 Metrowest residents added their own views on The Sunflower’s key questions in a community book discussion and dinner hosted by Holliston’s First Congregational Church. The gathering was sponsored by the Metrowest Interfaith Dialogue Project (MIDP), launched in 2017 by Holliston clergy and the Islamic Society of Framingham to promote understanding and cooperation among people of diverse faiths. The group also reaches out to non-believers and to those who are not affiliated with any religious congregation.
After a potluck supper, participants broke up into four groups to discuss the book, as well as their own opinions on forgiveness. Leading the discussions were four Holliston clergy: Rev. Bonnie Steinroeder, senior minister at the First Congregational Church, Rabbi Steven Edelman-Blank of Temple Beth Torah, Rev. Carl Chudy of Our Lady of Fatima Shrine, and the Rev. Mark Peterson, pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church. Helping to lead Muslim participants in the discussion was Hussam Syed from the Islamic Society of Framingham.
As the groups tackled the many issues raised by the book, some common questions surfaced:
• Is one justified in forgiving someone on behalf of victims who cannot speak for themselves?
• Can we forgive without also forgetting?
• What are the necessary requirements of true repentance?
• How culpable are those who remain silent in the face of wrongdoing?
• For believers, what role does God play in human-to-human forgiveness?
• How do different religious faiths –Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism – view forgiveness. Commentators from all these faiths give their perspectives in The Sunflower.
Not surprisingly, many of the issues raised by this thought-provoking book remain unresolved in the minds of many readers. Yet participants in the Metrowest event seemed to agree with several of the book’s commentators on one important conclusion: the act of forgiving, no matter how difficult and painful, can remove great burdens not only from the wrong-doer but also from the one who has been hurt.
(Larry Maloney is a freelance writer in Ashland, MA)
Metrowest Interfaith Dialogue Project
hollistoninterfaith.org | firstname.lastname@example.org | Holliston, MA
November 17, 2018
Not long ago the news of a fifth-grade child in Hemenway school in Framingham, who was the victim of a hate crime based on her faith and the faith of her family devastated us all. This is an issue that is not new in our country, unfortunately, and one that we of different faith and non-faith traditions need always to be vigilant for.
We pray for this child and her family and all our Muslim neighbors, near and far, who may struggle for acceptance in these fractious times. In many ways this act also symbolizes all of the acts of bias and violence against all those who are Muslim, Jewish, African American, immigrant and others in these recent years particularly.
Last October 27th, we held our first interfaith event at Temple Beth Torah on the very afternoon of the anti-Semitic shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Unexpectedly we moved to Jewish prayers of mourning, and even though the circumstances were quite difficult, the opportunity for our non-Jewish neighbors to support our Jewish friends at such a time was indeed was what neighbors of faith must do.
The attack on this child was not born in a vacuum, but part of a culture of prejudice where hate is learned, even by children. Our commitment to interfaith dialogue is to join others in support to this child and her family, but also to encourage opportunities where peoples of different faith traditions can come together in friendship, seeking common ground and holding our differences together in respect and curiosity.
This is not only a demand of the best of each of our faiths, but this is also the stuff of nation building, starting in our communities.
Shalom | Peace | Salam
Rev. Bonnie Steinroeder – First Congregational Church, Holliston | Fr. Carl Chudy – Our Lady of Fatima Shrine, Holliston | Rabbi Steve Edelman-Blank – Temple Beth Torah | Rev. Mark Peterson – Christ the King Lutheran Church, Holliston | Rabbi Jennifer Rudin – Simcha Services, Holliston | Shaheen Aktar – Islamic Society of Boston | Hussam Syed – Islamic Society of Framingham
This is one of many examples of the need for peoples of all faiths to come together, along with our secular brothers and sisters. It is in secular structures that we all can gather equally and consolidate the power to heal the earth that is in all of our hands. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section. What does your faith tradition say to the challenges of global climate change today?
by Larry Maloney
On the very day that a gunman killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, a group of Metrowest residents gathered at Holliston’s Temple Beth Torah for an event dedicated to promoting understanding and cooperation among people of diverse religious faiths.
Entitled “Listening and Loving: Honoring Our Diversity as Multifaith Neighbors,” the two- day event, held at the temple on Oct. 27 and Our Lady of Fatima Shrine on Oct. 28, was the first such gathering sponsored by the Metrowest Interfaith Dialogue Project, launched in 2017 by Holliston clergy.
The conference drew more than 50 participants each day in what organizers hope will be a continuing series of events that will draw people from a mix of religious faiths, as well as those with no religious affiliation.
United in grief. Even before conference participants could begin the planned agenda, Rabbi Steven Edelman-Blank of Temple Beth Torah led prayers for the Pittsburgh victims and recalled the valuable mentoring he received years ago at the Tree of Life synagogue. “I would not be a rabbi today, were it not for my experience there,” he said.
Rabbi Edelman-Blank noted that anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. rose nearly 60 percent in 2017, the largest single-year increase ever recorded by the Anti-Defamation League. The FBI has designated the Pittsburgh shooting a hate crime. “We mourn the victims, and we worry about our country,” said the rabbi.
Another of the conference’s organizers, Rev. Carl Chudy of Holliston’s Fatima Shrine, said: “We can all bring comfort and consolation to our Jewish neighbors. Interfaith dialogue is more important now than ever before. People of faith can be part of the leaven of peace so sorely needed in the world today.”
During the two-day conference, attendees engaged in several activities designed to build bridges between people of diverse religious backgrounds. These included:
Others observed that many congregations are caught up in more pressing matters, such as declining membership that has caused financial pressures and prompted closings and consolidations. Data from Middlesex County shows that the number of residents who say they are affiliated with a religious denomination declined by 24% from 2000 to 2010, while those with no religious faith increased by 137% in the same period.
Even so, “Loving and Listening” participants clearly viewed the conference as a springboard for more interfaith dialogue. “I loved the warmth and friendship that I felt all around me,” said Verna Hobson of the First Congregational Church. “We are all God’s children, and we have much in common. If there should be further meetings of this sort, I would certainly plan to attend.”
The conference ended with attendees suggesting ideas for future interfaith activities. These included: joint prayer gatherings, such as the interfaith Thanksgiving service scheduled for November 18 at the First Congregational Church. Among other ideas: book clubs, youth volunteer days, open houses, and workshops on addiction and other concerns.
Said Hussam Syed from the Islamic Society of Framingham: “Our problems, goals, aspirations and many of our beliefs are the same. When we get to know each other, we can move beyond mere respect and can be more efficient in reaching out to others, especially the poor and needy.”
(Larry Maloney is an Ashland-based freelance writer. For more information on the Metrowest Interfaith Dialogue Project, contact Rev. Carl Chudy at (508) 429-2144, email: (email@example.com)
Verna Hobson from First Congregational Church wanted to share this beautiful poem for our interfaith gathering. Take a look.
God made of one family the people on earth.
He loves us all dearly; we all have much worth.
We all have one Father, Creator and King,
To love and adore, for whom our hearts sing.
Allegiance to God should be our first goal,
For more than all else, He treasures each soul.
A lesson important that everyone learn –
God’s love is a gift, not something we earn.
He’s made of one blood every person we see;
True brothers and sisters therefore must we be.
While skin colors vary, each beautiful tone
Gives lovely appearance to the one who does own
The red or the yellow, the white or the black –
No skimping on beauty does any race lack.
And if you will notice, with truly great flair
He coordinates skin with the eyes and the hair,
So that all are attractive and carefully made,
Whatever the color, whatever the shade.
Each face and each finger distinctive, unique –
No two are alike, though afar we should seek.
Every person is special, God wants us to know;
And He values each greatly, from head down to toe.
By caring for all, with His love very real,
He sets true example of how we should feel.
We must offer respect to each person we meet –
To push away one is to make incomplete
The family of God, since one Father we share.
Let us show love to all, and to none give despair.
If we view every person as God’s precious child,
We will find all are wanted and will show none reviled.
Our caring means sharing our clothing and food,
And helping another to shelter her brood.
Compassion and kindness to all we must show,
As helping and caring will let others grow.
Since living requires each person to work,
And idleness weakens the one who would shirk,
Then a meaningful job every person desires,
Whether tending a farm, or stoking home fires.
Insofar as we’re able, let us pass on a skill,
That will help others lose their desire to kill.
For each useful endeavor at a task that is learned
Gives hope to the doer and esteem justly earned.
And with each success, and a job that’s well done,
A happier future for all is begun.
For when people are fed, and good health is the norm,
And all live in comfort and out of the storm,
Then peace can begin, and contentment can reign,
And jealousies cease causing sickness and pain.
So we thank Thee, dear God, for each sister and brother.
Keep us mindful of Thee as we help one another.
Bind our hearts in true friendship, make false boundaries flee.
Help us ease others’ burdens, from all hatreds set free.
With Thy light on our path, and our faces aglow,
May we then become beacons to all whom we know.
Then, one family of God as we circle this earth,
Hand-in-hand, heart-to-heart, all will know their true worth!
Verna S. Hobson
November 29, 2004
Copyright © 2005
Judeo-Christian was a myth that served a purpose. It’s time to write the next chapter.
By Eboo Patel
October 18, 2018
Here is how I’ve been opening my speeches on college campuses lately: Did you know that when the Mayflower Pilgrims arrived on the Atlantic seaboard and dusted off Plymouth Rock, they found the words ‘Judeo-Christian America’ etched on it?
I will pause for a moment, taking in the "Oh wow" stares of twenty-year-olds who excelled on standardized tests, and then I will slowly shake my head and allow a knowing smile to climb onto my face.
Sometimes there will be a chuckle from the crowd, but I like it most when students view this gambit as a challenge rather than a joke, when they lean forward in their seats and give me looks that say, ‘Ok buddy, now you’ve got me. So tell me, where did 'Judeo-Christian America' come from? This better be interesting."
And it is. "Judeo-Christian America" was created by a group of interfaith leaders who founded an organization called the National Conference of Christians and Jews (NCCJ) in the late 1920s as a response to the anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism of the KKK.
The leaders of the NCCJ believed that the Protestant nation narrative needed to be expanded to include the growing numbers of Jews and Catholics in the United States. To accomplish their goal, they created a term that has become so woven into the American story that we forget that someone at some point made it up. "Judeo-Christian America" is a civic invention, and a genius one at that. The history is beautifully recounted in Kevin Schultz’s book, Tri-Faith America’.
Why do so many students in the room look like they believe me (or at least like they want to) when I tell my little Plymouth Rock story? The answer is simple: no one, not in high school or in college, has told them the real story.
In fact, outside of the obligatory references to the First Amendment, no educator has talked to them much about one of the great achievements of American civilization – the creation of a religiously diverse democracy.
There is data that underscores the important difference that colleges can make regarding how students engage with religious diversity. The findings of the Interfaith Diversity Experiences and Attitudes Longitudanal Survey (IDEALS), co-led by Alyssa Rockenbach, Matt Mayhew, and IFYC survey show that students come to campus interested in learning about religious diversity issues, and that incorporating religious diversity education into first-year orientation and creating interfaith course sequences or minors are particularly impactful for achieving higher appreciative attitudes towards diverse identities and increased pluralism orientation.
That’s important, because while the civic invention "Judeo-Christian America" did good work for 80-some years, we now live in a nation with appreciable numbers of Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, Baha’I’s, Jains, atheists, seekers and more, and in a moment where the forces of religious prejudice are on the rise.
We need a new national narrative that directly combats prejudice and proactively welcomes the contributions of these various groups to the American Table.
The person who writes that narrative might well be a twenty-year-old student on a college campus right now.
Taken from the blog, Inside Higher Ed in a special blog series on Diversity in America.