East Lansing Interfaith Community Meets to Show Support for Muslim Neighbors

Monday, February 15, 2016, 9:02 am
Coleen Moyerbrailean

Last Friday, members of the East Lansing Clergy Association, an interfaith organization, met at The Islamic Center of East Lansing to show support for and solidarity with their Muslim neighbors.

The clergy presented a Resolution entitled “A Resolution Affirming the Shared Values and Intentions of the Interfaith Community of East Lansing, MI” to Imam Sohail Chaudhry of the Islamic Center. The Resolution, which was drafted by Reverend Margie Osborn of Eastminister Presbyterian Church, and signed by members of the East Lansing Clergy Association, states the following:

               Whereas, as people of faith, we share the core values of loving our neighbor, welcoming the stranger, seeking justice, pursuing peace, and doing unto others as we would have others do unto us; and

               Whereas, we abhor the systemic xenophobia and derogatory speech that is being perpetrated against groups based on their ethnicity, religion, or national origin; and,

               Whereas, we celebrate our country’s rich diversity that is a result of being a nation of immigrants and refugees from its founding; and,

               Whereas, we stand in solidarity with our Muslim neighbors who are being subjected to increased suspicion and outright hatred in our community; and,

               Whereas, we recognize that as human beings we have created barriers between faith communities that are contrary to God’s will;

               Now therefore, be it resolved, that the East Lansing Area Clergy Association and its representative faith communities hereby declare out intention to further our understanding of one another’s cultures and faith traditions in the East Lansing area by building relationships of mutual trust and respect through shared education, fellowship, and outreach.

Rev. Alice Townley, Chair of the East Lansing Area Clergy Association, spoke and shared feeling “powerless” in the face of increasing anti-Muslim rhetoric and harassment. She described how area clergy sat down last December with Imam Chaudhry and asked what they could do. His reply was what the clergy had known “in our hearts, to foster more education and relationships.”

Rev. Townley finished her remarks by noting, “We can do so much. We can meet our neighbors. We can learn from each other and dispel misunderstandings. We can offer kindness and mutual support. We can serve the most vulnerable together. In a climate of hate and suspicion, we can choose love.”

Pastor Fred Fritz of University Lutheran Church talked of being right next door to the Islamic Center. He shared that the two faiths have chosen to find the “commonalities” between them and to “support each other.”

A similar sentiment was shared by Rabbi Amy Biggman of Congregation Shaarey Zedek. She spoke of “supporting and learning from each other.”

This support was in evidence inside the Islamic Center lobby. A table was set up to display cards, letters, and emails of support from individuals and congregations within the larger community, along with Michigan State University Police Department, and Lansing Community College.

Imam Chaudhry closed the gathering by reciting a verse in Arabic and then translating to say “the reason God created us different from each other is so we can know each other, we can learn from each other, we can discover each other. This diversity is a blessing from God, almighty, for all of us.”

A variety of educational events about Islam will take place during the rest of February and into March. These include:

QCross, Hillel and Islamic Center Panel Discussion, My Faith Leads to Acts of Solidarity
February 17, 7-9 p.m., MSU Wonders Hall#C103. Speakers include Imam Sohail Chaudry, Rabbi Dana Benson and Rev. Jenn Tafel

Film Night at Unitarian Universalist Church, American Muslims: Facts vs. Fiction and On a Wing and a Prayer: An American Muslim Learns to Fly
February 21, 7-9 p.m., Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lansing, 855 Grove St.

Women in Islam at All Saints Episcopal Church
February 28, 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., All Saints Episcopal Church, 800 Abbot Road

Islam 101 at the Islamic Center of East Lansing
March 6, 2:30 p.m., The Islamic Center of East Lansing, 920 S. Harrison