Faith

Durham Congregations In Action takes stand against religious hate

The Praise Team of Shepherd's House United Methodist Church, a congregation with many immigrants from Zimbabwe, performed at DCIA's annual meeting earlier this year.
The Praise Team of Shepherd's House United Methodist Church, a congregation with many immigrants from Zimbabwe, performed at DCIA's annual meeting earlier this year.

Durham Congregations In Action has released a “Statement Against Religious Hate” to take a public stand against religious hate and be an example others to do the same, particularly Christians.

DCIA is already a religiously diverse collaboration of mostly Christian congregations but also to Muslim and Jewish congregrations and other faiths, including Buddhism. They host interfaith events throughout the year, from its monthly lunch meetings to discussions to just facilitating individual congregation interaction. At its January meeting, which was also its annual banquet, the theme was welcoming immigrants and refugees. The Praise Team of Shepherd’s House United Methodist Church, which includes many Zimbabwean immigrants, sang both in English and Shona at the event. Also at the banquet, DCIA took orders for yard signs that read “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor” in English, Spanish and Arabic.

“We need our neighbors,” said Iraqi refugee Sufyan Abdullah in January.

On Monday, Rev. Spencer Bradford, executive director of DCIA, said they directly distributed 75 of the neighbor yard signs themselves and helped others order more through Together We Will NC.

Bradford said that since the November election, they’ve noticed more public hate speech and language of intolerance going on, especially the week of the DCIA banquet welcoming immigrants and refugees in late January. That week President Donald Trump announced a proposed ban on immigrants from several primarily Muslim countries.

Bradford said that along with a threat against the Lerner Jewish Community Day School since then, DCIA “just wanted to make some public action to assert the importance of religious communities, especially churches, speaking out agains that kind of hateful attitude.”

The unfortunate fact of the matter is, it is often people identified with churches making the most hateful remarks on social media and elswhere, about Muslims particularly.

Rev. Spencer Bradford, executive director of Durham Congregations In Action

“The unfortunate fact of the matter is, it is often people identified with churches making the most hateful remarks on social media and elswhere, about Muslims particularly,” he said. Bradford said that DCIA’s statement encourages its member congregations and other congregations to say out loud and publicly among their congregations and to their neighbors that hateful speech is not what they’re about nor part of their spirituality. Publicly stating opposition to religious hate can be a starting point to positive counter action, Bradford said Monday.

DCIA’s full Statement Againt Religious Hate:

“We are in a time when the value and importance of Durham’s religious diversity must be reasserted. We are home to a long-standing Jewish community that gave the city Mayor E.J. Evans in the 1950s and 60s, and we are also the home of the oldest Muslim community in North Carolina at the Ar-Razzaq Islamic Center. During the past decade, Durham also has become home to Muslims and Christians made refugees by the Iraq war and its consequences. Since the beginning of the year, there has been an increase in threats, vandalism and arson against Jewish and Muslim communities across the U.S., and this has touched Durham also with a bomb threat against a Jewish day school in February. Prejudice toward Muslims has increased in political rhetoric and become a driving force in immigration and refugee policies.

Durham Congregations In Action, an association of spiritual communities of diverse religious traditions in the Durham area, has built bridges of understanding and respect across these traditions for 48 years. We call on all of Durham’s faith-communities to stand up and speak out against hate and disdain toward other religions, and to highlight the Golden Rule of love for one’s neighbor as oneself that is held by all major religions as a moral principle. Jewish and Muslim centers should not have to increase staffing and training for security purposes. Immigrants should not face abuse and ridicule in our streets and schools, whether for their religious identity or their native ethnic or national identities. Our houses of worship and education should serve as places of learning, prayer, beauty, refuge and peace — not objects ofthreat and terror. In Durham, neighbors are entitled to respect and care without discrimination, persecution or hate.

Durham has gone through a great deal of struggle to achieve greater equity between races and religious communities in its history, and we know we have not yet arrived where our values call us. But we cannot tolerate hatred and prejudice to drag us away from the path of hope. We will stand united to oppose the swell of fear and enmity toward Muslims and Jews in our society. We will speak out against verbal and social media attacks of religious and ethnic hate. We will reject and resist any hostile actions toward neighbors of other faiths or their property. We will build relationships with our neighbors based on respect, care and willingness to learn, and those relationships will be the basis for a common security and a shared future of peace. We call on all of Durham’s religious communities to stand for and claim that security and peace for all of us together.”

For more information about DCIA, visit dcia.org.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563, @dawnbvaughan

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