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Time to counter hate and intolerance

Even as hate filled rhetoric continues to pump the airwaves, there are a number of initiatives calling to counter the intolerance.

Today, on August 28th, forty-seven years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream Speech” at the Lincoln Memorial. His message gave voice to the voiceless and his vision promoted a just, equal, diverse and compassionate country. This year, as Brave New Films reminds us, a very different message is going to be spread from the very ground on which King once stood, where TV host Glenn Beck and Ex Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin will hold a rally at the Lincoln Memorial.

The racist tenor of Beck, Palin and the Tea Party movement is in direct contrast to the noble vision of Dr. King.

Take the pledge to

stand with Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of a just, diverse and equal society and not stand with Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin and their attempt to destroy and distort King’s vision.

Meanwhile the continued elevated controversy over the so called “ground-zero mosque” is evidence that almost a decade since the 9/11 attacks we haven’t communicated, therefore, we haven’t grown. Unfortunately, many Americans still associate Muslims and Islam directly with terrorists. The Unity Productions Foundations has started www.groundzerodialogue.org, a new website where you can view several of their award-winning PBS films online in their entirety speaking directly to the issues.

Films include: Talking through Walls: How the Struggle to Build a Mosque United a Community, Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet and Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think. And with UPF’s “20,000 Dialogues,” project you can host your own dialogue and bring people of different faiths together to watch films on the issues and then afterward open it up for discussion, so that the voices and opinions of everyone can be heard. To expand the reach and the power of the films UPF is working with PBS stations around the country to rebroadcast these films.

A quote from the movie Muhammed: Legacy of a Prophet addresses a commonly wrongly made connection,

The acts of terror violence that have occurred in the name of Islam are not only wrong, they are contradictory to Islam.

Initiatives like these use the power of film to address the common goal of peace and tolerance. The great thing about America is that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, however it is important that it comes from a place of understanding and knowledge, rather than ignorance and hate.

Religious leaders of all faiths come together in the “immigrant capital of America”

A few days ago we told you about the many events taking place across New York City to mobilize support for immigration reform, building up to the nationwide march in DC on March 21st. Today we attended one of these events – an inter-faith convocation in which religious leaders of all faiths came together to talk about the pressing need for  just and human immigration reform in 2010.

The minute I walked in to the hall at the majestic Riverside Church, I could feel the energy in the room. There was a feeling of community, emerging from people united with the same purpose with a sense of hope and excitement as they look forward to change on the immediate horizon. Hosted by the Riverside Church and organized by the New York State Interfaith Network for Immigration Reform and the New York Immigration Coalition, the line-up of speakers was impressive in its variety and scope. In addition to a Member of Congress and representatives from the different immigration activist groups, the speakers represented various Christian denominations, and Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and Buddhist faiths.

Kicking off the event, Rev. Robert Coleman welcomed everyone, alluding to the strength and responsibility of New Yorkers as citizens of the “immigrant capital of America.” He established concepts of equality of all before God, access to human rights for all, and the principle of hospitality as intrinsic to the Christian faith. These ideas were echoed by all the speakers from the different faiths as they referenced their scriptures and called for comprehensive immigration reform that respects due process and ensures the safety and unity of immigrants and their families. Referring to sections from the Torah, Rabbi Noam Marans spoke about the duty of people to look after those who were less privileged and stated that the greatness of a nation is judged not on how its most privileged are treated, but on how it supports its “weakest links.”

Rep. Charles Rangel, the New York Congressman who was instrumental in initially deferring the deportation of Jean Montrevil and eventually contributing to reuniting him with his family, gave his support to the convocation and praised the faith-based groups for uniting on the issue of immigration reform, one that he said was crucial to the growth, stability, and moral integrity of the country.  Rep. Rangel said that he believed that immigration reform would benefit the economy as well as national security, and assured the group that he was committed to ensuring that the reform bill introduced by Rep. Gutierrez and Sen. Schumer would be passed in the Senate and the House this year.

In addition to the idea that all humans must treat each other with respect and dignity irrespective of their language, nationality or status, there was a second trope that ran through the speeches that jumped out at me; the notion of the United States as a nation that was built on the hard work and contribution of immigrants from all over the world. A number of the speakers mentioned the ways in which a path to legalization for the nation’s 12 million immigrants would benefit the economy, as well as the ways in which the current situation was allowing for immigrant workers to be exploited and paid less than minimum wage. Anindita Chatterjee Bhaumik, the Hindu Clergy Liason for the NYPD, for example, quoted from the Hindu text, the Bhagavad Gita, and spoke of how the country cannot progress without access to human rights for all. Bishop Jeremiah Park of the United Methodist Church told his own story as a first generation immigrant from South Korea in search of the American dream, and invoking the values inherent in the Statue of Liberty, urged President Obama and Congress to build bridges and allow immigrants to be productive and healthy members of the country that they were already a part of. “We, as people of faith, cannot be passive,” he urged.

As communities across the country have been coming out in support of immigration reform, the faith community has remained one of the strongest forces in this fight for immigration reform. We hope that their united front, combined with their commitment to the cause and dedication to their faiths will encourage more people to join the movement and see that this issue affects everyone in one way or another.