Taking time in worship to counter bigotry

May 17, 2011

Religious and human rights activists are asking U.S. churches to
invite Jewish and Muslim clergy to their sanctuaries June 26 to read
from sacred texts in an initiative designed to counter anti-Muslim

The initiative, called "Faith Shared: Unit­ing in Prayer
and Understanding," is co­sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance and Human
Rights First. Leaders of the two Washington-based groups said the event
is intended to demonstrate respect for Islam in the wake of Qur'an
burnings in recent months.

"As a Christian minister who is a
pastor in a local congregation, it is important to me for our nation and
our world to know that not all Christians promote hate, attack
religions different from their own and seek to desecrate the scripture
of others," said Welton Gaddy, a Baptist pastor and president of the
Interfaith Alliance, on May 17.

"We believe that demonstrating our
commitment to those core American values will help counteract the
intensified level of negative stereotypes and anti-Muslim bigotry in
recent discourse," said Gaddy.

More than 50 churches in 26 states
already have committed to the event, including the Washington National
Cathe­dral and New York's Riverside Church.

The regional variety
includes two churches in Hawaii as well as Anchorage First Christian
Church in Alaska, Boise First United Methodist Church in Idaho and
Decatur First United Meth­odist Church in Georgia.

"Few things are
more important for the future of our world than to respect, to honor
and to commit ourselves to the well-being of every person," said
National Cathedral dean Sam Lloyd. "As Ameri­cans and people of faith,
we must use our great traditions to come together for mutual enrichment
and understanding."

Working with the Interfaith Alliance, Human
Rights First has a website at faithshared.org. "Congregations will send a
clear message to the world that Americans respect religious differences
and reject bigotry and the demonization of any religion," said
spokesman Tad Stahnke of Human Rights First.  —RNS/ABP