Saturday, March 4, 2017

Speech to the Vigil for Peace and Unity, Glen Rock, NJ

The events of recent days* that have compelled us to gather together here tonight are deplorable. They are a betrayal of the values that we hold as Americans. They are a betrayal of the values that we hold as New Jerseyans, proud residents of one of the most diverse states in the United States of America. And they are a betrayal of the values that we uphold here in our borough of Glen Rock, in the town of Ridgewood, and throughout Bergen County.
The Religious Communities of Glen Rock is an association of all the worshipping communities that call Glen Rock home. And part of why we join together as people of different faiths is to work to prevent the kind of racist violence and religious intolerance we have recently seen.
These acts are a betrayal of our civic values, of course; but they are a betrayal of our religious values as well. We people of faith seek God and seek after those things that we hold to be sacred in many ways. But for all our differences, there is one thing we share in common, and that is a mutual respect for our diverse traditions. So, while we may not share a common faith, our respect for those of other faiths and traditions is something we do share in common.
Therefore, we must condemn racist violence and religious intolerance. And we condemn those who would incite such acts. But our strongest condemnation is reserved for those who would incite or carry out these acts in the name of God. These acts are not of any God that we recognize.
But the work we are called to do, as people of faith, is not merely to condemn the guilty; it is to protect the innocent. If you or someone you know is threatened or afraid, know that you can call on any one of the members of our communities, and we will help you. You can seek shelter in any one of our gathering places and we will protect you.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a person of our faith, or of any faith. Our beliefs compel us to help you, our faiths require that we protect you.  So, we come here tonight as people of faith not just to condemn the evil we see in the world; we come to help cure it as well. Thank you.

*On February 22, near Kansas City, Kansas, two men of Indian descent were targeted in a racist attack. Srinivas Kuchibhotla was killed; and his fellow engineer Alok Madasani was wounded along with Ian Grillot, a bystander who intervened. The shooter thought the men were Middle Eastern and he shouted racial epithets, telling them to get out of ‘his’ country before he started shooting. Recently, Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia were desecrated. And more than 100 threats against Jewish community centers and synagogues have been received in the few months of this year alone. In response, members of the Religious Communities of Glen Rock, the Indian community and others organized a Vigil for Peace and Unity that took place on Saturday, March 4th, drawing more than 300 people to Glen Rock Borough Hall. 

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