On Wednesday, January 18th, my husband and I and our eight year old son attended the Peace and Unity Community Gathering at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Waterbury. This interfaith service to support our Muslim neighbors was sponsored by the Naugatuck Valley Project and the United Muslim Mosque Inc and led by religious leaders from Waterbury, New Haven and Newtown. These people of faith from Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Baha’i traditions led us in this witness to solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters. In the sacred space where we all gathered, congregants, citizens, activists, city officials, religious and community leaders, we listened to Holy Scripture beautifully and prayerfully sung in Arabic and Hebrew. Their voices invited me to go within, to my sacred center where God dwells, and be fully present in this place. We listened to the personal reflections and experiences of our Muslim brothers and sisters of discrimination, violence and hate. My eyes were beginning to see with my heart the pain and suffering and fear. Some are discriminated against not just because of their Muslim religion but because of the color of their skin and their gender--Muslim women of color. “We don’t need you to speak for us,” she said. It is about understanding, standing with one another and caring for one another. We listened and listened some more. All our voices were heard as we stood together, shoulder to shoulder, young and old, children, women and men, all religions, no religion, all races, in that sanctuary and pledged:
We stand in solidarity with any neighbor who is singled out in hatred. We will act to support and love our neighbors. We pledge to speak out against any hatred or mistreatment that our sisters and brothers suffer. We ask our local elected and appointed officials to be vigilant and act immediately to oppose acts of hatred against any in our community. All our neighbors must be protected against acts of violence, regardless of their faith, age, gender, race, orientation and ethnicity. Let It Be!
It was a very powerful and humbling experience that I took back home that night. It left me to reflect on what will I pledge in my own community of Newtown and what will we pledge, as a faith community, Trinity Episcopal Church. In light of the recent hate crime in our town we must pledge to stand with all our brothers and sisters and we must pledge love, for love casts out fear. 1 John 4:18.