ELCA NEWS SERVICE
September 7, 2010
ELCA Joins Interfaith Religious Leaders to Address Anti-Muslim Rhetoric
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) joined a coalition of Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders to denounce rising anti-Muslim rhetoric and bigotry in the United States, as the country prepares to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The religious leaders met in Washington at the request of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), Plainfield, Ind., which hosted an emergency interfaith summit Sept. 7. Afterward, the interfaith leaders released a statement at a news conference at the National Press Club.
They stated, "As religious leaders in this great country, we have come together in our nation's capital to denounce categorically the derision, misinformation and outright bigotry being directed against America's Muslim community. We bear a sacred responsibility to honor America's varied faith traditions and to promote a culture of mutual respect and the assurance of religious freedom for all."
The Rev. Donald J. McCoid, executive, ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations, represented the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, at the summit. McCoid was part of the statement's drafting team.
"This was an exceptional gathering of Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders," he told the ELCA News Service. "In the midst of so much frenzy against Muslims, these diverse religious leaders stood together in solidarity to address the prejudices and bigotry that have surfaced in the media and in politics. The right to free exercise of religion in this country is very basic."
The religious leaders said that they are grateful to live in a democracy whose Constitution guarantees religious liberty for all. They expressed alarm at the anti-Muslim frenzy that has erupted over plans to build a Muslim community center and mosque near "ground zero" in New York City. They said they are "profoundly distressed and deeply saddened" at violence against Muslims and desecration of Muslim houses of worship. The interfaith leaders also denounced plans by a Gainesville, Fla., church to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11.
"The threatened burning of copies of the Holy Quran this Saturday is a particularly egregious offense that demands the strongest possible condemnation by all who value civility in public life and seek to honor the sacred memory of those who lost their lives on Sept. 11," the interfaith leaders wrote.
"We are committed to building a future in which religious differences no longer lead to hostility or division between communities. Rather, we believe that such diversity can serve to enrich our public discourse about the great moral challenges that face our nation and our planet. …We call for a new day in America, when speaking the truth about one another will embrace a renewed commitment to mutual learning among religions," the statement said.
Dr. Ingrid Mattson, ISNA president, said at the news conference that she's heard from many Muslim families "who say they have never felt this anxious or this insecure in America since directly after Sept. 11 (2001)."
"They're nervous about their children as they head back to school this week, that when they go to school that they're going to face people who are looking at them as aliens, when in fact they're citizens who were born in this country. They're afraid about going out in public," she said.
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Catholic archbishop emeritus of Washington, said religious leaders cannot stand by in silence while one faith group is marginalized. He said he feared that people outside the United States would believe that animosity, bigotry and hatred toward Muslims is the story of "the real America."
"It's not. This is not America," said McCarrick, representing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "We have to make sure our country is known around the world as a place where liberty of religion, where respect for your neighbor, where love for your neighbor … are the most prominent in our society. America was not built on hatred. America was built on love."
Hate speech against any religious group is a betrayal of the promise of America, said Rabbi David Sapperstein, representing the Union for Reformed Judaism. "We've been the quintessential victims of religious persecution and discrimination throughout history. We know what it is like when people have attacked us physically, when people have attacked us verbally. It cannot happen here in America in 2010 without the response of the religious community," he said.
The Rev. Richard Cizik, president, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, warned that people should beware of trampling on the religious liberties of others. "If you undermine liberty for other peoples' children today your own children may one day see their religious liberties deprived from them," he said. "The principles that protect Muslims today here in their country will protect Christians, Jews, and others tomorrow."
The full text of the interfaith leaders' statement is at http://www.isna.net/articles/News/Beyond-Park-51-Religious-Leaders-Denounce-Anti-Muslim-Bigotry-and-Call-for-Respect.aspx on the Web.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or email@example.com