Thursday, March 2, 2017

A Response from the Office of Public Witness to Acts of Religious Bigotry

March 2, 2017 

The Office of Public Witness stands firmly with our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters against targeted destruction of ancestral Jewish grave sites, the burning of Mosques and all acts of religious bigotry. We echo the words of Stated Clerk Rev. Dr. J Herbert Nelson: “In the face of our current realities, where hatred and prejudice have become all too evident, it is imperative that we, the people, be able to look to our leaders to bear witness to the best that is in us, to lift up the promise of our Statue of Liberty that all are welcome, and to speak in ways that unite us rather than divide us.”

We require strong condemnation of all religious intolerance from our elected leaders at the highest levels, and find their response insufficient thus far. In the immediate aftermath of Election Day, a wave of hate crimes and lesser hate incidents swept the country — 1,094 bias incidents in the first 34 days, according to a count by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).  The highest count came on the first day after the election, with the numbers diminishing steadily after that. The number of hate groups operating in the country in 2016 remained at near-historic highs, rising from 892 in 2015 to 917 last year, according to the latest count by the SPLC.

We call upon the Trump administration to address and root out anti Semitism, anti Muslim bigotry and religious intolerance in all its forms, including those found in its own communications.

The Office of Public Witness is deeply inspired by the solidarity of Muslim-American leaders Linda Sarsour and Tarik El-Messidi, who raised over $100,000 to help repair the gravestones in St. Louis, and are now directing extra funds from that effort to Philadelphia.

Through decades of policy, Presbyterians have demanded humane treatment of people of all nationalities and faiths who find themselves within our borders.
“Many neighborhoods and communities across the United States are welcoming of greater religious and cultural pluralism. Many are not. People from non-Christian, non-white, non-Western backgrounds often experience discrimination due to religiocultural bias. Note especially the rise in Islamophobia. Religiously based violence has risen throughout the United States. This violence divides communities and discourages the neighborliness advocated in Scripture and modeled in the life of Jesus Christ.” (The Interreligious Stance of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), as approved by the 221st General Assembly.

In Faith We Share, 

Rev. Jimmie Hawkins