July 9, 2016

Gun – Violence – Peace

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 11:36 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

Yet again our nation has been wracked by the bloody mix of guns, fear and anger. In one instance a loner, crazed by hateful thoughts, used a gun to kill many strangers. In another a police officer, frightened by seeing a gun, killed a non-threatening man in a car.

Far too often people with guns in this nation kill people they know, but we are more disturbed by attacks on strangers.  The most recent mass-shooting targeted police officers, and the killer invoked racial hatred as a motive. Thus this particular act of violence took on a particularly tragic quality. But in the end it is the same as other mass-shootings, a crazed person, acting as a free individual with a gun, wrought havoc on several fellow citizens.

Likewise, if Jeronimo Yanez or Philando Castile had not possessed a gun, that particular traffic stop could not have ended in death. Race was secondary to that situation. It adds to the fear and misunderstanding between people. If both men had been white and carried guns the situation was also likely to end in violent death, if slightly less so. It is the fear of violence and the way we use guns to amplify our that fear that must be opposed by the spirit of love. To paraphrase Christian scriptures, “We fight not against flesh and blood but the powers and ruling ideas of this troubled world.”

We, Unitarian Universalists, as a religious people, consciously dedicate ourselves to respond to gun amplified fear by working for Love and Justice, Dignity and Tolerance. Our goal is to counter the fear and terror created by these mass-shootings. Our goal is mot to merely end all the gun related violence in our nation, (and in our world). We want to create a spirit of peace. We have no one single method for undoing this violence. Some of us focus on gun control legislation, and others on raising awareness of our own biases. But in worship, together, we will represent our shared dedication by lighting a flame in a chalice. The flame represents the one spirit and truth that inspires us to use all resources available. We use our feelings of sadness, even helplessness, to support one another, and to create peace.

August 9, 2012

Eboo Patel and Common Ground wtih Sikhs

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 2:00 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

I post here an excellent opinion column from Eboo Patel:

“Imagine the terror.

You are in a temple, a safe, sacred place, preparing for a morning service. In the kitchen, you are busy cooking food for lunch, while others read scriptures and recite prayers. Friends begin to gather for the soon-to-start service.

At the front door, you smile at the next man who enters. He does not smile back. Instead, he greets you with a hateful stare and bullets from his gun.

Such was the scene Sunday at a Sikh gurudwara in Oak Creek, Wis., just south of Milwaukee, where a gunman, Wade Michael Page, killed six and critically injured three others before being shot down by law enforcement agents.

As Page began his shooting spree, terrified worshippers sought shelter in bathrooms and prayer rooms. Rumors of a hostage situation surfaced, and those trapped inside asked loved ones outside not to text or call their cell phones, for fear that the phone ring might give away their hiding place.

The first police officer to arrive on the scene stopped to tend to a victim outside the gurudwara. He looked up to find the shooter pointing his gun directly at him, and then took several bullets to his upper body. He waved the next set of officers into the temple, encouraging them to help others even as he bled.

That magnanimity is a common theme among the stories of victims and survivors of the Wisconsin shootings. Amidst terror and confusion, Sikhs offered food and water to the growing crowd of police and news reporters outside the gurudwara as part of langar — the Sikh practice of feeding all visitors to the house of worship.

We now know that Page was part of a neo-Nazi movement. But let us not take these moments to look into the heart of hate. May we instead shed light on a religious tradition of peace and generosity, the kind of generosity that inspired distraught worshippers to feed others just minutes after they had been brutally attacked.

The Sikh community has been one of welcome and hospitality since its founding in India 500 years ago. With their belief in a supreme Creator and a deep respect for all human beings, Sikhs place strong emphasis on equality, religious freedom, human rights, and justice.

Sikhs from India began immigrating to the United States in the late 19th century, and currently the Sikh popuation numbers about 314,000 in America and 30 million worldwide. Today, Sikhs are successful business people, active community members, and advocates for social justice.

Their love for all humanity inspires the hospitality we witnessed so vividly outside that Oak Creek gurudwara, though it has not protected them from being the targets of numerous post-9/11 hate crimes.

In living out that hospitality, Sikhs remind us of our own quintessentially American generosity. A core American idea is that we welcome contributions from all different groups and build cooperation between people of diverse backgrounds. It’s the theme of my new book, Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America.

While today we hear news stories of division and hate, American history tells a different story.

The shooting in Oak Creek reminds us that the forces of prejudice are loud. They sling bigoted slurs and occasionally bring 9mm guns to places of worship. But we are not a country of Wade Michael Pages.

We are a country whose first president, George Washington, told a Jewish community leader that “The Government of the United States…gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”

We are a country where Jane Addams welcomed Jewish and Catholic immigrants streaming in from Eastern Europe in the 19th century as citizens, not as strangers.

We are a country where a young black preacher, Martin Luther King, Jr., learned nonviolence not only from Jesus Christ, but also from an Indian Hindu named Gandhi and from a Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh.

And we must be a country where a new generation of leaders rises up to write the next chapter in the glorious story of American pluralism, or else we will forfeit the territory to those who would shoot at our neighbors while they worship.

Already we see the forces of pluralism in action. Donation sites for families of the victims have sprung up, and supporters have updated their Facebook profiles with pictures saying “I Pledge Humanity.”

Groups in Madison, Minneapolis, and Detroit have held vigils in solidarity with those affected by the shooting, and survivors of the recent shooting in Aurora, Colo., have reached out to Sikh victims via social media.

As Sacred Ground discusses, there have been periods in American history when the staunch opponents of pluralism have won the battle. But they didn’t win the war, because irrepressible people of good faith refused to surrender their nation to such fear and hatred.

Let us remember that we cannot cede this moment in our history to the forces of intolerance. And may we draw inspiration from our Sikh neighbors as we build a world where people of all backgrounds are honored for their unique contributions to America.”

Eboo Patel is founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based international nonprofit that promotes interfaith cooperation. His blog, The Faith Divide, explores what drives faiths apart and what brings them together. His latest book is Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America.

January 28, 2011

Good Muslims – Bad Conversations

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 10:45 am by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

I have a friend who fears Muslims.  If I speak of Dr. Baharami, or Dr. Ansari, if we talk about the woman who started Muncie’s AWAKEN or  Eboo Patel and the Interfaith Youth Core, she admits readily and happily that a Muslim can be a force for good.  But any moment the conversation drifts into groups, even the local Islamic Center, just as readily and with great certainty, she insists that Muslims are bad.  Even a “good” Muslim, like the doctor we know, if she thinks of him fighting the Soviets as a young man, or thinks of his wife segregated with other women in that center, she begins to speak of the underlying hatred, oppression and violence of Islam.

One of my roles, as I see it, is to help generate thoughtful and informed conversation in the midst of a sea of sound-bites and shallow reactionary “talk.” But the currents of pop culture, like the currents of the ocean, are terribly powerful.

One of the blogs I am happy to subscribe to is ‘Sightings’ from the Martin Marty Center.  On January 27, 2011, Omid Safi posted an essay on this subject, “Good Sufi, Bad Muslims.”  He speaks clearly of the American pop cultural tendency to lump Muslims into two groups, either the violent type and their supporters, or  the non-political and “spiritual” Sufi type.

“There are many versions of this game, but the basic contour stays the same: The assertion that the general masses of Muslims are evil, terrorist-supporters, anti-western, patriarchal, misogynist, undemocratic, and anti-Semitic; and that these masses are set off and defined against either the solitary, lone Muslim good woman or man. The “Good Muslim” is often an individual, or a small circle, because to admit that the larger group of Muslims could be on the right side of the human-rights divide is to have the house of cards of the Muslim demonization game collapse on itself.”

Professor Safi, goes on to invoke the Islamic ideal of prophets and of prophetic speaking truth to power, both ideals that are central to Unitarian Universalist culture and theology as well.  He ends with these words: “If our public discourse about religion and politics is to evolve to a more subtle, and accurate, space, it must get to the point where religious voices that speak from the depths and heights of all spiritual traditions can do more than simply acquiesce in the face of the Empire. They can, and should, speak for the weak, and give voice to the voiceless.”

I hope that we all become agents of good conversation about the needs of the weak, that we affirm those who nurture justice in giving voice to the socially voiceless.