Family Separation is Not a Family Value

Arizona Faith Network stands in solidarity with people of faith and moral strength all across the nation against the unconscionable treatment of migrant children by the current administration in separating children from their parents. To date, over 2,300 acts of “cruelty by separation” have been committed against migrant children along the U.S. southern border. Although we strongly agree to the need for secure borders, we know that as Americans, we are better than this ….  We are a nation that espouses family values and we do everything we can to keep children from harm.

Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not,
For of such is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:14

Additionally we stand against the mandatory detention of asylum seekers. When people enter this country seeking asylum, they have not crossed the border illegally, they have not committed a crime. They are fleeing from persecution in their home land, yet once they arrive here, they are detained sometimes for years while they wait for a judge to settle their case. 

Separation of children from their parents is not a family value. It is harmful to children, no matter the race, ethnicity, age or country of origin. The immediate impacts are very clear—children crying, anxiety setting in, fear taking its toll. But the long-term impacts are even worse—the possibility that the separation will be permanent due to parents not being able to find their children in the morass of immigration procedures, the loss of family connectedness, the potential for children to end up in situations worse than what they were fleeing from, and more.

Arizona Faith Network joins in the nationwide call from faith leaders and others for this administration to end the policy of family separation NOW. Yes, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does have discretion in how they will prosecute and treat the families of people crossing the border without proper documentation! This is not a partisan issue, it is an issue of basic human rights and the rights of children. This senseless policy must end now.

For the LORD your God... executes justice for the orphan and widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing.  You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. –Deuteronomy 10:17-19 (NRSV)

Faith communities and people of good will across the country are standing ready to help. Or, if migrants must be detained, the administration should operate with some semblance of humanity like its predecessors and re-open family detention centers. The voices against the separation of children from their families will not be silenced until the mistreatment of migrant children ends. There are better options. We hold better values. We urge people of faith across this nation to continue to speak out, stand up and show your support for migrants regardless of the nation of origin. Who knows except the next great one for the ages may be among them?

And what is [the matter] with you that you fight not in the cause of Allah and [for] the oppressed among men, women, and children who say, "Our Lord, take us out of this city of oppressive people and appoint for us from Yourself a protector and appoint for us from Yourself a helper?" An-Nisa, Verse 75

On the passing of Dr. James Hal Cone

JamesCone_UnionHeadshots.jpg

James H. Cone, 79, Founder of Black Liberation Theology, Dies

(excerpted from the Union Theological Seminary website © 2018 Union Theological Seminary, All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.)

NEW YORK – Rev. Dr. James Hal Cone, renowned founder of Black Liberation Theology, award-winning author and Bill & Judith Moyers Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, died today. He was 79.
...
Cone is best known as the father of black liberation theology. In his ground-breaking works, Black Theology & Black Power (1969); A Black Theology of Liberation (1970); and God of the Oppressed(1975), Cone upended the theological establishment with his vigorous articulation of God’s radical identification with black people in the United States. His eloquent portrayal of Christ’s blackness shattered dominant white theological paradigms, and ignited a wave of subsequent American liberation theologies.
...

Read the whole tribute at Union Theological Seminary: In Memoriam: Dr. James Hal Cone

Arizona Faith Network stands in solemn solidarity with the family, friends and colleagues around the world in the passing of Dr. James Hal Cone. The video below is an excerpt of a message on his passing from one of his students, Dr. Warren H. Stewart, Sr. of First Institutional Baptist Church, Phoenix.

Supporting Arizona's Students as We Stand in Solidarity With School Staff

In the midst of an educational crisis in our state, Arizona Faith Network is supporting Arizona’s students as we stand in solidarity with school staff. Arizona’s children deserve a safe, nurturing school environment where they can be free to learn, play and grow.

Please join us at a clergy press conference on Wednesday, April 25 at 12 noon at the State Capitol, Rose Garden to pray and speak out on behalf of the safety, nourishment and education of Arizona’s children. There will be non-partisan statements and a time of prayer by clergy in support of a permanent funding solution to public education in Arizona. We support our students, families, teachers and school staff in publicly-funded schools, and we support the role of public education in democracy.

For too long, Arizona’s teachers and school support staff have been asked to provide a positive and nurturing learning environment without sufficient resources. AFN stands in solidarity with school employees in calling for adequate compensation. We stand ready to help our faith communities and constituents participate in the efforts to ensure Arizona’s children are tutored, fed and have a safe place to go during school hours in the event of a teacher and school employee walkout.  

Although we understand the complexity of the issue, given that each school district will customize their response, we want to alert our constituencies across the state of the need to be ready to help. The daily routines of parents and children are going to be shifted if a walkout takes place.  And for some families, it may be very difficult.  Those who care about Arizona’s families will be asked to help, particularly in districts with high percentages of students on free and reduced price lunch.

AFN is working with various stakeholders to strategize on how we care for Arizona’s children in the event of a long-term walkout. Many houses of worship have already stepped up to provide meals, child care, activities and transportation support. Partnerships between school districts, youth serving organizations, churches, businesses and government agencies are developing to ensure that students continue to have the support they need and that parents have a place to take their children. If your house of worship is involved or is looking for ways to get involved, please let us know by sending us an email to contactus@azfaithnetwork.org.

Message on Criminal Legal Reform

As part of AFN's March 2018 "Faith, Equity & Inclusion in an Age of Mass Incarceration" event (Session III of the The Monsignor Edward Ryle Faith, Equity & Inclusion Event Series), the statement below has been released and we encourage people of faith to add their voices to this call and to advocate for a "fundamental transformation of mindset about the criminal legal system." 

(CLICK HERE TO ADD YOUR VOICE TO THIS MESSAGE)

The American criminal legal system poses a major challenge to Faith leaders, and in response, several national church and religious bodies have adopted policy statements urging significant reforms. For example, one such policy statement adopted by The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on August 17, 2013, describes the current system’s serious deficiencies and, drawing from the biblical witness to God’s wondrously rich forms of love and justice, the Statement calls on people of faith with a “holy yearning” to address the need for change in the public mindset and the need for dramatic reforms in policies and practices.

The good news is that a bipartisan movement is growing to revise major inequities and imbalances in the criminal legal system, and to substantially reduce the needlessly long and expensive sentences for many prisoners, especially non-violent offenders. Leaders in the faith community now have an opportunity to band together in a cooperative effort to push policy makers for a comprehensive reevaluation of sentencing inequities. We also need to reevaluate how the corrections system works after conviction, including the use of private prisons, poor medical and mental health care, excessive use of solitary confinement, scarce rehabilitation and community reentry programs, and restoring voting rights for those who have completed their prison sentences.

The Arizona Faith Network calls upon all people of faith, regardless of denominational or faith community distinctions, to step forward to speak and act, prophetically and courageously. So many cries of suffering and despair emerge from inequitable sentences and correctional policies — from victims, the incarcerated, their families, communities, those wrongly convicted, those who work in the system — and have not been heard.

Religious and faith communities should draw upon the wisdom of their divine powers, holy texts, and continuous teachings for inspiration in the realm of promoting healing and transformative justice practices.

In assessing the current system, faith leaders recognize many in the system who serve their professional vocations with competent and humane performance. Yet, there are serious deficiencies. An underlying punitive mindset, budgetary con­straints, and persistent inequalities based on race and class frequently challenge its basic principles and impose significant costs on all involved in the system, and on society as a whole. We support positive trends for reform such as greater emphasis on victims’ rights and needs, emphasis on restorative justice instead of retribution, community-based alternatives to incarceration, legislation that reduces sentences for certain offenses, the emergence of specialized courts, and the growing emphasis on reentry. These efforts should be funded and supported adequately.

Because mass incarceration causes significant harms, both personal and social, we strongly urge those who make and administer correctional policies to take all appropriate measures to limit the use of incarceration as a sanction for criminal offenses. Toward that end there are three specific paths: pursue alternatives to incarceration, reform sentencing laws and policies, and closely scrutinize national drug policy.

Four other imperatives also require vigorous action from policy makers: the criminal legal system must acknowledge the disparities and address the implicit and explicit racism that persists within; it must recognize the special needs of juvenile offenders; it must stop the privatization of prison facilities; and finally, it must foster the full reintegration of ex-offenders into the community including restoration of voting rights.

A fundamental transformation of mindset about the criminal legal system is required that challenges the logic equating more punitive measures with more just ones. Individuals must be held accountable, but every person in the criminal legal system deserves to be seen and treated as a member of society, with inherent worth and dignity, and worthy of appropriate and compassionate response.

Arizona Faith Network

Released at “Faith, Equity & Inclusion in an age of Mass Incarceration”
Thursday, 22 March 2018.

(CLICK HERE TO ADD YOUR VOICE TO THIS MESSAGE)

In Solidarity and Love, We Stand Together Against Hate

Arizona Faith Network stands in solidarity with the Islamic Community Center of Tempe (Mosque), the Arizona Council of Imams, our Muslim brothers and sisters and all people who promote interreligious harmony in condemning the vile acts perpetrated against the Mosque. On March 4, two women trespassed with three children into the mosque and proceeded to vandalize property. They videoed themselves and the children while destroying property, and they encouraged the children to use racist, Islamophobic language. They then applauded the children for their actions. We applaud Tempe Police for taking action in arresting the perpetrators on charges of felony third degree burglary.

Burglary? Yes, and rightfully so. Yet this type of behavior has much deeper ethical, spiritual and generational ramifications. We are especially appalled by the exposure of children to these contemptible acts, which is inexcusable. We pray that the effects of such hate-mongering by these two adults will not take form in the minds of these children and that they will learn to love despite what they have seen. We call for an end to the divisiveness, hatred and ignorance that such acts represent. We pray that the consequences these women face will teach them the error of their ways. We pray that justice will be swift and restorative, teaching them to “love thy neighbor” and persuading them and others to prevent such acts in the future.

As people of faith uniting to create positive change for the common good, AFN sees no place for hatred, division or criminal acts against any human being, especially not based on race, ethnicity, age, religious affiliation, ability, sexual orientation, natural origin or other protected status.

Every human being deserves to be treated with dignity and with respect for their right to worship as they choose. We call on people of faith across this great state to pray, search their sacred writings and speak up for divine love, righteousness and humane treatment of all people.

Graciously,
Jannah Scott, Interim Executive Director
Arizona Faith Network

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions. Proverbs 10:12
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

Join together for Love and Coffee this Saturday, March 17 @ 10:30 AM in support of healing for the community. Tempe Interfaith Fellowship members and other supporters will gather with our friends at the Islamic Community Center of Tempe, 131 E 6th St. Tempe.

The links below show you the Love and Coffee event and an article about the vandalism.

https://www.facebook.com/events/2089170028038910/

https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/tempe-breaking/2018/03/15/tempe-police-arrest-tahnee-gonzales-elizabeth-dauenhauer-tempe-mosque-incident/430481002/

[click here for a PDF version of this statement]

Follow us on Facebook @arizonafaithnetwork
Visit our website at www.azfaithnetwork.org
Email us at contactus@azfaithnetwork.org

Host (or watch) a Sing-Along Messiah!

Using the resources found at the link below, you can host your own “Messiah Sing-Along” with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir! You can either do it live on March 23, or on-demand until April 9, at no charge. Included on the MoTabChoir website are other helpful resources, such as links to the entire text (libretto), downloadable musical scores, a video of the 2016 event and other videos related to Handel’s masterpiece. Even if you don’t host a sing-along, you’ll surely enjoy watching the performance. Thanks go to AFN Board Member Gerrit Steenblik for sharing this with AFN. Link: https://www.mormontabernaclechoir.org/mes…/messiah-sing.html

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Faiths' Response to Racism

(CLICK HERE TO ADD YOUR VOICE TO THIS MESSAGE)

As a foundation to AFN's "Faith, Equity & Inclusion" event series, the Theological Dialogue Commission developed the following statement, Faiths’ Response to Racism.  The statement speaks to our need to:

  • Understand personal and institutional manifestations of racism
  • Recognize personal complicity in racist behaviors
  • Understand what our own and other faith traditions say about racism
  • Acknowledge the many root causes of racism
  • Be willing to decry the micro-aggressions and oppressions that are a result of racist mindsets
  • Speak prophetically from our faith traditions about both personal and institutional racism and
  • Find ways to work on reconciling and recompensing the generations of injustice that have been meted out due to racism

We encourage people of faith to add their voices to this call and to understand that racism and its concomitant ills are antithetical to all faiths and that a change of mindsets about the depth, proliferation and impact of this issue in American society must be accomplished.

FAITHS' RESPONSE TO RACISM

Racism is antithetical to our Faith Traditions’ sacred texts and historic teachings. The founder of Bahá’í, Bahá’u’lláh, said, “Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul…” [Sobhani, 18].

The following definition of racism incorporates the themes found in many faith and secular organizations’ definitions. “Racism involves social power and prejudice, the capacity to make and enforce decisions (power) that is disproportionately and/or unfairly distributed. Racism can involve unequal access to such resources as money, education, information, etc. In the United States, racism can best be understood as a system with personal/individual and institutional manifestations. Racism is a system which differentiates between whites and people of color. Because the social systems and institutions in this country are controlled by whites, whites have the social power to make and enforce decisions and greater access to resources” [National Church Dialogue on Anti-Racism]. For this document, AFN is focused on racism in the United States of America, while we recognize that it can be found across the globe and throughout human history. We acknowledge that racism affects all people of color: African-Americans, Native Americans, Latinx communities, Asian Americans, Native Hawai’ian, Pacific Islander, and Middle-eastern Americans. We recognize that we as individuals and as faith communities have been complicit with white supremacy in racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim behaviors. We understand that racism assigns states of experience as racial characteristics. For example, poverty may be considered the result of “laziness,” rather than understanding that poverty is one form of oppression caused by racism. “If someone is denied access to education, [Moore says this mindset reasons] perhaps it is because of his or her work ethic or ability to work with others” [Moore, 2]. We confess the fact that racism is both a historical fact of American life and an on-going reality in our society. The 300+ years of enslavement of black peoples, the enslavement and genocide of indigenous peoples and the ongoing systemic oppression that can be traced to both atrocities; all occurred with complicity - conscious or unconscious - from many of the white Christian churches in the past. We decry the subtle oppressions of lack of resources, education and voice in the public square and we mourn the physical brutality and violence many persons of color continue to experience - all occurring with complicity - conscious or unconscious - from many of faith communities in the present - in every state of our not-quite union.

Nonetheless, our Faiths share values and ways that speak about the Divine that emphasize our common humanity, dignity, and worth. The Abrahamic Traditions share the text, Genesis 1: 26-27, “And God created the human in his image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them” [Alter, 18-9]. Abrahamic faith traditions understand that there is something that reflects the Divine One in every person. “Because people are created in God’s image, all human life has special value” [Telushkin, 261]. The founder of Quakerism, George Fox, said, “There is that of God in everyone.” The Sanskrit word Namaste,means “the Divine in me acknowledges and greets the Divine in you.” The Sikh Tradition states explicitly, “The Timeless One doesn’t approve of separation or disruption; He doesn’t recognize any distance; He believes only in love and appreciates selfless service…God resides in all, therefore every individual is linked to the other by the ties of mutual co-operation and co-existence. We are tied with other with an invisible string is this in the hands of God ‘In all selves art Thou abiding. In Thee are all sharers; to none dost Thou appear alien’ (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, 97)” [Alag, 21-22].  “Allah tells us in the Glorious Qur’an that the diversity of life, the various languages and colors of human beings, are signs of His Majesty. These are all lessons for us to learn about humility, equality and appreciation of differences. Islam is against all forms of racism and discrimination based on both the revelation and reasoning.  Allah said in the Quran, ‘O people, We have created you male and female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another. Verily, the most noble of you to Allah is the most righteous of you. Verily, Allah is knowing and aware.’ Quran (49:13)” [Faja, 2/27/18]. And every faith tradition has a form of what in the U.S we call the Golden Rule.  In contrast, “Racism ascribes false values to human difference. Therefore, it is inherently sinful. The true evil of racism gives license to the use of power to dominate others” [The Episcopal Diocese of Arizona, 1].

Most of the world’s religions arose in geographies where skin colors of those indigenous peoples were not white. The distinctives that are drawn between people in our sacred texts are religious and moral, not ethnic nor racial. There are passages that speak of God intervening on behalf of all peoples: Amos 9:7, Isaiah 2:3-4, Jonah 4:10-11, Zechariah 8:20-22, Colossians 3:9-11, Romans 10:11-13, Qur’an Sura 17:70, see also, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, 469). Telushkin calls the Amos passage cited above, “what may well have been the first explicit repudiation of racism in any literature” [Teluskin, 269].

Therefore, the issue in the early texts of the Jewish faith, Islam or Christianity is how we treat each other. There are over 100 admonitions to welcome the stranger; often with the reminder “You were strangers once yourself.” Yet in human history and in U.S. society today, we have not welcomed the “other” and have excluded and persecuted the “other. Christian ethicists Stassen and Gushee use one definition of racism as an issue of justice and reconciliation. They discuss racism as a source of violence and death, explicit hate crimes, disproportionate incarceration rates and death sentences, lower life expectancy, disproportionate depression and lack of self-worth, lower educational rates, environmental degradation in neighborhoods where persons of color reside, economic disparities, and all forms of power imbalances. Our sacred texts speak to how painful it is to be the stranger, the other, the one who is marginalized, oppressed, and victimized. These texts also define the responsibilities of those with power in society. Most of injustices are linked - cause and effect and cause - to the exclusion from community. Jewish ethicist, Joseph Telushkin cites Leviticus 24:22, “You shall have one law for the alien and for the citizen: for I am the Lord your God” and the Talmud’s formalized principle of equality, “…’the law must treat you all equally’ ( Ketubot 33a)” [Telushkin, 406]. “Allah said in the Quran, ‘Among His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Verily, in that are signs for people of knowledge.’ Qur’an (30:22).” Abu Nadrah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said in the final days of the Pilgrimage: ‘O people, your Lord is one and your father Adam is one. There is no favor of an Arab over a foreigner, nor a foreigner over an Arab, and neither white skin over black skin, nor black skin over white skin, except by righteousness. Have I not delivered the message?’ (Musnad of Imam Ahmad) [Faja, 2/27/18].

These exclusionary justice issues are categorically addressed within the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 19 and Isaiah 58 are but two examples) and within the Qur’an (Sura 5:32, 17:70, and 49:13). For Christians, exclusionary injustice is antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and to our record of Christ’s own behavior among us. He healed and taught Romans and Phoenicians. His ministry took him to Tyre, Sidon and Perea. The appearance of the Spirit of God in Acts 2 is multilingual and multinational (Acts 1:4; 2:1-13). These concepts of equality and inclusion are developed in the writings of Paul and James in the Christian Bible (Eph. 2:11-22, Col. 3:11, Galatians 3:26-28, James 2:1-13, for example).     

Some faiths such as Sikhism and Bahá’í have explicitly addressed racism within their sacred texts because these sacred texts are reacting to events and society where race was and is a social construct in that culture at the time the texts were composed after the C17th.  For example, elimination of prejudice of all kinds is a stated principle of the Bahá’í Faith. 

Yet we acknowledge that there are many causes of racism: fear of the other; the sociological concept of tribalism; fear of loss of control/power; the role of human need for control, acceptance, and security.  In the global north, racism has an additional element; people have been demonized by an artifact of conflating the Germanic-based words for that which enables sight, the least intense color tonality, and the lowest density of melatonin in the skin. For over 1000 years, that has led to “light” meaning good and “dark” meaning bad in the gestalt of Northern European influenced cultures. This resulted in the demonization and therefore, persecution of persons of color. The use of language remains an on-going tool of racism.

In addition, one of the on-going injustices of racism is that historical wrongs have been inadequately addressed, written out of our histories, and forgotten (deliberately or through neglect and inattention or lack of concern). “Failure to face the wrongs of the past almost always signals a lack of readiness to live in justice and yes, reconciliation, today” [Stassen, 399].   Two values shared by all faith traditions are honor and truth. They compel us to acknowledge that in the late C19th all the way into the 1960s Northern Hemisphere science was usurped by persons endeavoring to support racism through dubious scientific practice [Offit, 97ff]. Worse, some persons of faith adopted these reports because they supported their own preconceived prejudices. During Jim Crow, KKK members were mainly “church people.” This same tendency to look for things that support our own vested interests have led some people of faith to misuse their own sacred texts, taking statements out of context, reading into scriptures rather than applying scripture.  The Greek word ethnos” “living in a different area,” was translated “race”. This had political and economic overtones and was pulled out of context by persons seeking to justify slavery and racial oppression; including Nazi Germany. Under the Nazis (a shortened form of nationalsozialist or “national” socialist), 6 million Jews were murdered based on the Nazi Party’s stated belief that Jews were an “inferior ‘race’” along with 3 million others considered “inferior.” We reject the construct of white supremacy.

The great tragedy today is that many faith traditions continue to be complicit in the structures that create, embed, permit, and perpetuate societal racism. In our North American highly individualistic culture, many congregations face an additional barrier to reconciliation, and thus a continuance of institutional racism. Americans within faith traditions that have a concept of “sin” tend to focus on “my sin” and how “I should turn back to God.”  “Salvation for American Christians is a transaction between two individuals - themselves and God. This over-simplification of sin does not make sense of systemic, corporate evil, brokenness, and social maladies” (italics are in the original) [Moore, 2].   Yet, Biblically, there is also a strong emphasis on the communal aspect of sin. In the past 100 years, this emphasis has come to be called social sin in Roman Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox writings and collective or corporate sin in other Mainline and Evangelical documents. Secular philosophers name this collective oppressive behavior “Structural Oppression.” The corporate group that we participate in and are responsible for includes our families, our congregation, our local governments, our national government, and our society’s very gestalt. The Catholic Church has a very clear definition of social sin,  “The sinfulness of society into which a person is born. Its premise is that modern socialization and collectivization have immersed everyone in other people's values and moral actions to an unprecedented degree.” All members of a society are complicit in its institutional injustices. “Torah committed Israel to a life of society free of the inequality and exploitation that characterized its own existence in the Egyptian land of bondage. Whenever Israel tolerated the oppression of the poor, of orphans, widows and immigrants, the prophets accused the people of collective infidelity to God. To know God was to do justice (Amos, Jeremiah, Isaiah). Jesus himself included in his mission the release of captives and the liberation of the oppressed (Luke 4.18–19)….Sin has both a personal and a social dimension; and the two are interrelated…social sin refers to institutionalized injustice” [New Catholic Encyclopedia]. “In today’s racialized America, to do nothing is to be complicit with evil. A church committed to anything less than the full and just protection of the image of God in everyone equally, fails to be the church of Jesus Christ” [Theological Declaration…, 3]. We reject the idea that as individuals we have no responsibility for the structural and institutional behaviors of the society in which we live.

However, our faith traditions have also been the source of anti-racism work. Our faiths ask us to look at the intersection of religion and politics and ask who has the power to impose.  Throughout history, this intersection has not been good. The Story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis is about people trying to gain power through an attempt to reach the heavens, rather than caring for each other. Our Abrahamic faith traditions understand this to be a form of idol worship. Instead, our faiths call us to greater unity. “Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated: The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, ‘God does not look at your figures, nor at your attire but He looks at your hearts and accomplishments’ (Sahih Muslim)” [Faja, 2/27/18]. When Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets”(Matthew 22:37-40; NRSV), he was quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, “and you shall love the Lord your Gd with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might,”  and Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love your neighbor [fellow] as yourself, I am Gd” (TANAKH). The latter verse has been called the “major principle of the Torah” [Rabbi Akiva, Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim, 9:4]. The Unity Declaration on Racism and Poverty has used the Theological Declaration of Barmen (1934), the German Evangelical Church’s resistance to anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany, as a model of corporate congregational responsibility and resistance to racism. The Roman Catholic Church has stated, “we are called to constantly examine our own hearts and consciences for how we might contribute to or break down racial divisions, intolerance, and discrimination” [Department of Justice…, 1].

Many congregations across our Faith Traditions express the breadth of humanity through their diverse cultures. “Islam is a universal religion for all people and for all times. Muslims come from all background and continents. In the heart of a Muslim, there is no place for racism and arrogance” [Faja, 2/27/18]. Many of the Civil Rights Movement leaders and participants were clergy and laity from across Faith Traditions: ecumenically and interfaith. Martin Luther King’s vision of the Beloved Community has taken on a renewed resonance in response to white supremacy’s emergence from the shadows and tacit support from those in political power. “The Beloved Community is the body within which all people can grow to love God and love the image of God that we find in our neighbors, in ourselves, and in creation. It provides a positive, theologically and biblically based ideal that orients the work of racial healing, reconciliation and justice” [Becoming the Beloved Community…, 2]. In 2006, Mormon Church President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke to Church leaders and specifically addressed racism with these words: "Let us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, who loves all of His children.  . . . [T]here is no basis for racial hatred among the priesthood of this Church. If any within the sound of my voice is inclined to indulge in this, then let him go before the Lord and ask for forgiveness and be no more involved in it" [Hinckley, 58]. The Bahá’i have a number of national and local programs geared towards healing racism using such diverse methods as the arts, including a national Race Unity Day observed since 1957. The ecumenical organization, The YWCA, has a 2017 initiative “Stand against Racism.”

“Paul Tillich states, ‘The intrinsic claim in everything is that it cannot be violated with violating the violator.’ The oppressor is eventually as destroyed by his acts as is the oppressed. The implication of this fact is that racism is every single person’s problem” [The Episcopal Diocese of Arizona, 1].

The Human Genome Project has demonstrated that biologically, we physiologically really are all brothers and sisters descended from one common ancestress; what our sacred texts have already told us. “It is significant that the rise of racist ideologies in nineteenth-century Europe was based on the repudiation of the biblical account of creation and the theory that races have separate origins without a common ancestor” [Telushkin, 262]. “Living the essence of our faith means respecting diversity—cultural, social, religious and political. God identifies learning from one another as the primary goal of diversity (Quran 49:13).” [Unal].

Racism is antithetical to our Faith Traditions’ sacred texts and historic teachings.  The English word imitate comes from the Latin imitat-imitari ‘copy’; which is related to imago ‘image’. Our shared understanding of the Divine is of one who is relational and invites us to be relational, too. In the Christian tradition, this is exemplified by Galatians 3:28, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (NRSV). But the elimination of racism should not be equated with assimilation or homogenization; rather with unity. Orin Lyons of the Onondaga Indigenous People of New York, speaking at an event at the Heard Museum, said, the more appropriate understanding of the American dream is not a melting pot but a mosaic, where every piece retains its own unique beauty and the whole picture is beautiful, too. “Racism cannot be addressed until those of us who benefit from it, knowingly and unwittingly alike, acknowledge our privilege and own our responsibility to work toward surrendering it” [Horan, 2]. Addressing racism is a task of faith and of relationship. “It also requires conversation, learning, sharing stories, establishing friendships and becoming allies” [Stassen, 401]. 
 

Reflection Questions:

When you were growing up, when did you first become aware that such a thing as racism/prejudice/bigotry existed [YWCA, Stand Against Racism]?

How are you and your faith community engaging with issues of racism and white privilege? What is the best thing you have done so far [Queries of the InterMountain Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends]?

References

Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row, & Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). Harper’s Bible dictionary (1st ed.) (807–808). San Francisco: Harper & Row.

https://ag.org/Beliefs/Topics-Index/Racism (Assemblies of God)

Ahamed, Syed Vickar, translator. The English Translation of the Message of the Quran. (Lombard: Book of Signs Foundation) 2006.

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AFN Statement on the passing of Thomas Monson, President of the Mormon Church

It is with heartfelt sincerity that AFN extends its condolences to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on the passing of President Thomas S. Monson. Among many, President Monson did a great deal to guide the church through these times.

We would like to honor President Monson for his promotion of interfaith humanitarian causes with Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups supporting homeless shelters, food banks, nursing homes and disaster relief efforts in the United States and abroad. His work in increasing access to online church records, including his presiding over the church’s digitalization of the Freedman Bank records, has opened a treasure trove of over a century of information of American history at one of its most turbulent times --on the status and holdings of African Americans in the aftermath of the abolition of slavery. 

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Monson family, the Quorum of the Twelve, Church and its people all over the world.

Statement from the Arizona Faith Network regarding the decision by President Trump to terminate the DACA Program

September 6, 2017

As partners in faith, the members of the Arizona Faith Network wish to express our grave concern that the decision on the part of President Trump to terminate the DACA program is a cause of stress and suffering for thousands of young men and women who were brought to the United States by their parents and, in many cases, have known no other nation as their home.  

Regardless of the complex immigration issues that are legitimately in need of comprehensive reform, the possibility that those who have been covered by the DACA program could be deported and families torn apart is morally repugnant.  

We challenge the Legislative and Executive branches of our Federal Government to address the underlying issues with a positive goal of regularizing the status of those who have long been residents in the United States, is respectful of protecting families and will treat with compassion those who cannot be held culpable for the legality of the decision that led to them reside in the United States of America.

On behalf of the Arizona Faith Network,

Rev. Michael L. Diskin

President

AFN Statement on Hurricane Harvey

The Arizona Faith Network sends our heart-filled prayers and support to all those who are facing loss and hardship following the devastating damage brought on by Hurricane Harvey. We ask that leaders of federal, state, and local governments do all they can to address the immediate and long term needs of children, older adults, the homeless, refugees, the impacted and the disabled. Know that you are in our thoughts and prayers as we move through these next days, weeks and years of hurricane response and recovery. May we all do all we can as we learn how those from afar can help.