The best things happen over meals. We see this in the life of Christ. Most of his work took place on the street or over meals, not in religious meetings. My recent experience confirms this.
Ten religious leaders – Jews, Christians and Muslims — sat around the table enjoying tasty Middle Eastern cuisine at the home of Imam Ahmad Shqeira. The fellowship was warm and friendly. Near the end of the evening our conversation turned to serious matters. I asked, “What do you think of developing talking points together that could address some of the prejudice, hatred and discrimination our religious communities face?” An immediate consensus developed. We needed to act.
(In my next blog I will explain why addressing these kinds of human rights issues are really important)
Following this meal, we exchanged about twenty emails proposing key themes and edits to those themes that we needed to address. Then Imam Ahmad invited a smaller group of us to formalize our talking points into resolutions over a meal at the Islamic Community Center of Tempe, Arizona.
Below are the Seven Resolutions that emerged. What do you think? Would you sign these? Any comments or concerns? I would love to hear from you!
Against Prejudice, Hatred and Discrimination
As Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders, we believe in a common core of ethical standards which compel us to speak out against all forms of prejudice, hatred, and discrimination that our faiths encounter. The following seven resolutions provide common ground for us as “children of Abraham.” We affirm these 7 statements and resolve to share them with everyone, everywhere.
1. Our commitment to partnering for peace does not mean we dissolve our distinctive, historic beliefs into an imaginary “One World Religion.” Rather, it means each community seeks to be authentically faithful to their historic beliefs and finds within those beliefs the resources to reach out to one another in love and respect. We encourage Jews, Christians and Muslims to work towards peace and justice together. We believe that our communities of faith should be a force for peace, justice and reconciliation, instead of discord and strife.
2. Dialogue between Jews, Christians and Muslims provides us with opportunities to understand one another, build relationships, and engage in peacemaking. Through dialogue, we work toward mutual respect, graciously bear witness to our faith and work toward religious freedom. We emphasize the common core of ethical teaching about love of neighbor and peacemaking. Whether in wartime or peacetime, religious people must engage in “hospitality” toward each other. We must reach out in love and respect toward the alien and protect the stranger in our communities.
3. We seek to be accurate when we speak about one another’s faith. Overstatement, exaggeration and words taken out of context should not be the case among people of faith. The Torah teaches us “not to bear false witness against our neighbor” (Ex 20:16). The Gospel teaches us to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matt 7:12). The Qur’an teaches us to “stand out firmly for justice as witnesses to God, even though it be against ourselves or our parents” (Qur’an 4:135). Thus we strive to speak truthfully about one another’s faith, to respect each faith community’s own interpretation of themselves, and not to compare the best interpretation and practice of our faith with the worst interpretation and practice of others. We encourage every person be discerning re: how media and literature portray the “other.”
4. We recognize that there is a difference between the teaching of any religion and the actions of misguided followers. No religion or religious community should be judged by the evil action of some individuals. Thus, we do not believe that Islam, Christianity, or Judaism is inherently a religion of violence. Without exception, proponents of each religion have extremists. We should not allow tiny extremist groups to become spokespersons of their faiths. We, the main stream followers of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, want to live in peace, justice and with respect for one another.
5. We affirm the right of religious freedom for every person and community in the world. We defend the right of Jews, Christians and Muslims to express their faith respectfully. Thus we stand against all forms of religious persecution against Jews, Christians, Muslims or anyone else. God desires all people to choose and practice their faith based on conscience and conviction rather than any form of coercion or violence.
6. Respect for all faiths, languages, colors, and ethnicities is an ideal that America has sought to achieve. Since America was founded, Quakers, Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Native Americans, African Americans, Chinese, and Japanese, and others have been persecuted for their faith or ethnicity. We do not want to repeat the same mistake with Muslims. We do not believe that the vast majority of Muslims want to take over the world by force. We do believe that both Islam and Christianity want to win the world to their respective faiths by persuasion and not through violent means.
7. We pledge to work together for the constitutional right of Americans of all faiths, to build houses of worship anywhere in our nation as allowed by local laws and regulations; we stand against all forms of racism, hatred, religious intolerance, and ethnic bigotry and seek to preserve the human rights of all people as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; we call upon local and national elected officials to join their colleagues in denouncing and rejecting inflammatory rhetoric that endangers the lives of Muslim Americans.