I signed the Atlanta Interfaith Manifesto with mixed emotional feelings. This document is a powerful statement to encourage people of all faiths to stand together and speak out against the fears, hatred, and ignorance which are dividing our country.
My feelings were mixed because once again, now sixty years later, there still exists a strong need to publicly denounce many of the same civil and human atrocities that America faced decades ago. I questioned whether the signing of another manifesto would make any difference given the current political climate. I wondered whether this was just another futile effort fueled by the frustrations and disappointments of a few well-intentioned people.
To fully understand my apprehensions for signing another manifesto, one would have to appreciate my personal and professional perspectives as to why I even questioned the validity of another manifesto and its impact in 2016 and beyond.
In 1960 I left Denver, Colorado on a basketball scholarship to pursue an education at Tennessee State University. I had never lived in the South nor experienced blatant overt racism. The bus trip from Denver to Nashville was memorable, because at the Tennessee state line the bus driver “forcefully instructed” me to move to the rear of the bus and sit behind the white line which separated white and Negro passengers. I was unaware of the transportation segregation laws. Arriving at the bus terminal I was told that if I were thirsty that I had to drink from the water fountain labeled “For Colored Only”. Of course, there were those standing nearby who made certain that I drank from the appropriate fountain.
Incidents like these and many others became the foundation upon which I committed my life to fighting to end discriminations of any form against any person or group. As a civil rights veteran, I personally experienced and witnessed, fifty-seven years ago, religious bigotry, racial hatred, anti-Semitism, intolerant behavior against people who were different and worst of all I saw people, of good faith, remain conspicuously silent. I saw and felt violence personified, by people who allowed their fears to overrule their faith. I knew instinctively that when or where any group was being denied their constitutional rights that the oppressors, as well as those who chose to close their ears and eyes to injustice, would suffer.
Back then, as now, we were a divided nation by laws, fears, ignorance, racism, classism, sexism, genderism, and all types of phobias. There were countless protests, marches, speeches, rallies, and yes, manifestos which were written to challenge the bitter climate that pitted people against one another. Segregation and discrimination were a part of the American culture.
In 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education called for the desegregation of public schools, however Southern legislators said that the laws to desegregate were unconstitutional so they wrote and signed “The Declaration of Constitutional Principles of 1956.” It was called “The Southern Manifesto” and it resisted forced integration.
In that environment eighty white ministers from the Atlanta Christian Council signed and issued the first Ministers Manifesto in 1957. The Manifesto broke the foreboding silence of the Christian community. Today, we sign an interfaith manifesto to send forth a faith statement that we will not tolerate racial hatred, bigotry, nor every form of religious discrimination. A second manifesto entitled “Out of Conviction: A Second Statement of the South’s Racial Climate” was issued after The Temple bombing in 1958.
These two manifestos were significant catalysts for changing laws and attitudes by challenging displaced hate, bigotry, and discriminatory behavior.
Now, once again, in 2017 America is being divided by hateful divisions – political, racial, and religious rhetoric. The necessity to “build bridges rather than walls” is mandatory. The challenge and charge must emanate from an interfaith, intercultural army of compassionate, creative, and committed warriors.
Communication is based on understanding, respecting, and trust. The Atlanta Interfaith Manifesto has been created to encourage communication among all of those who pursue the causes of equality, fairness, and justice. This Is Our Moment In Time to not remain silent, but to once again link arms, hearts, minds, and pledge to actively eradicate any of the “negative-isms” which are poisoning our nation.
Let’s Once Again:
“THE SLEEPING GIANT OF ALL FAITHS HAS BEEN AWAKENED AND WILL SPEAK WITH ONE VOICE”
A veteran of the Civil Rights movement, The Rev. Dr. Gerald L. Durley is now deeply involved in interfaith work. As a World Pilgrim, he has traveled to Israel, Turkey, Jordan and other destinations with Muslims, Christians and Jews to better understand the differences and similarities among people, cultures and beliefs.
Dr. Durley was pastor of the historic Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta for 25 years and has been intricately involved in global warming climate change discussions across the country. He appears in the film The Great Warming, participated in the Climate Leadership Retreat at the Garrison, and testified before the Environmental Protection Agency. Dr. Durley has worked across faith lines to promote interfaith relations and has been a vocal, outspoken advocate for assisting groups and individuals to communicate across faith disciplines.
http://atlantainterfaithmanifesto.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/blank-logo-300x65.png00Rachelhttp://atlantainterfaithmanifesto.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/blank-logo-300x65.pngRachel2017-03-14 01:15:352017-08-25 18:31:46Reverend Dr. Gerald Durley: "This Is Our Moment"
“To understand other people, even your enemy, you must be willing to walk a mile in their moccasins.”
It was Labor Day weekend, 1971. I was 12-years-old. I was standing on the pulpit at the Tri-City Jewish Center in Rock Island, Illinois, becoming a Bat Mitzvah, taking on the obligations of a Jewish adult in the traditional, religious coming of age ceremony. And those were the words I shared, as part of a reflection on the portion of sacred scripture that accompanied that week’s observance of Sabbath. They are words that continue to guide me.
By the time I was 12, I knew how it felt to be “other.” I was the only Jewish child in my kindergarten class at the Villa de Chantel, a private Catholic School. I was one of four Jewish children in the public elementary school, once I transferred to Denkmann Elementary in second grade. My younger sister Harriet was one of them.
And I knew how it felt not only to be ‘other” but to be shamed for it: In sixth grade, when I was 11, I was ridiculed for being and “looking” Jewish: my big nose, my frizzy hair and my olive skin. No one would sit with me in the lunch room or on the school bus. It was, I learned later, a rite of passage, a hazing to be endured, to be accepted into the “cool clique.”
That seemingly trite experience left an impression on me: It was a week that changed how I thought about “otherness,” and I vowed I would never look down on anyone, ever, for being different from me.
Yet what left an even bigger impression was the small act of courage of the one friend who stood by me and stuck up for me.
Monica and I met when she was four and I was three. I spent every Christmas with her, eating Norwegian lefsa bread. She spent every Hanukkah with me, eating latkes. I went to Vacation Bible Camp with her at the neighborhood Lutheran church. She attended Junior Congregation with me on Saturday morning at the synagogue. We went to Brownies and Girl Scouts together. Our moms were the troop leaders. She ate Sabbath dinner with me on Friday nights at my grandma Sugie’s house. I even think she liked chopped liver better than I did.
No one had to teach us about respecting each other’s faith traditions: We simply lived it. We walked in each other’s moccasins.
And when the chips were down, she was her sister’s keeper.
The Atlanta Interfaith Manifesto calls us to take dramatic action. Its charge is set out in simple, straightforward and eloquent language. Its outlined principles speak to the best and highest aspirations in human consciousness.
Yet I am reminded of how lofty goals are often lived out through small acts of doing what is right, risking ostracism, or worse. I think of Monica who stood up to bullying. I think of a woman who sat down on a bus. I think of a man who walked across a bridge.
I also think of the Atlanta women who have met regularly for more than a decade as an interfaith sisterhood. I think of the hundreds of men and women who have traveled together as World Pilgrims. I think of the Muslim and Jewish women who have baked together in an interfaith baking circle. I think of the university professor and his children who acted out Nasruddin Hodja stories at a recent “Winter’s Light” interfaith storytelling gathering. I think of the warmth and camaraderie in the room at the recent annual meeting of the Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta. I think of the Atlanta mother who has just recently gathered dozens of people to stand in loving solidarity outside Atlanta mosque’s during Friday jumaa prayers.
And despite the fear, hatred and violence that’s become all too common, these individual acts are reminders of hope. They illustrate how Atlanta continues to serve as a beacon – one made up of individual candles – of people willing to reach across differences of faith, of their “otherness,” to learn from and with each other about how to get along.
Taken together, they advance the larger quest for interfaith understanding and cooperation.
And they challenge us to find ways, small and grand, day in and day out, to do what my friend Monica did, and walk in another’s moccasins, even if no one will sit next to you on the bus.
Audrey Galex has just begun her second year as president of the board of Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta. She is Program Content Manager at the AIB Network. She and her husband Dave Schechter have three children: Maayan, Eyal and Ronen. They belong to Congregation Bet Haverim, a Reconstructionist synagogue in Atlanta.
http://atlantainterfaithmanifesto.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/blank-logo-300x65.png00Rachelhttp://atlantainterfaithmanifesto.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/blank-logo-300x65.pngRachel2017-02-27 20:13:522017-08-25 18:31:39Audrey Galex: Lofty goals are often lived out through small acts of doing what is right
I am the daughter of a Holocaust survivor. My dad, who turned 90 just a few weeks ago, rarely spoke about his experiences during the war. My brothers and I knew the rough outline: he grew up in Frankfurt, Germany, stayed there until his deportation to a camp, was liberated, and a year later came to the US with his family. It wasn’t until his first granddaughter was born that we persuaded him to tell his whole story.
In his memoir, my dad revealed what he believed allowed him to survive. It wasn’t that he was “better” than anyone else or more clever or more devout. He told us that survivors were “lucky,” not good or bad. He saw that there was no difference between those who survived and those who were murdered. Some people were lucky and many more were not.
Several of the turning points in my father’s stories are moments when individuals who happened to have the opportunity to help, did so. It was my dad’s lucky encounters with people who were actively doing the right thing that allowed him to survive. People who may have thought of themselves as good, but were passive and did nothing, only helped the oppressors.
I believe that one of the lessons of the Holocaust is that we need to work harder to create our own good luck.
As I write this, a group of World Pilgrims (Christians, Muslims and Jews) are traveling together in Guatemala. A program of Interfaith Community Initiatives, World Pilgrims journeys offer opportunities for people of faith, clergy and lay leaders, to really get to know each other. A World Pilgrims experience is a sacred journey that deepens each participant’s own faith as she/he gains appreciation for the commonalities and differences in other religious traditions. Mostly, pilgrimages encourage real friendships that cross faith, race, gender, and even political divides.
The friendships that develop over the course of a Pilgrimage are lasting. We support each other when times are tough and celebrate the good things. The honest discussions can be challenging, and sometimes feelings get hurt, but we all recognize that our friendship is stronger when we can agree to disagree. Since the first pilgrimage in 2002, every time a community feels threatened, World Pilgrims have been there to do the right thing: protecting a mosque, mourning a massacre, standing against injustice.
I am honored to have been a member of the group that helped develop Atlanta’s Interfaith Manifesto. While the words of the Manifesto itself are important, to me, the real value is the list of those who endorse it. I look at that list and I feel very good about Atlanta. While the list of well-known community leaders who signed on is impressive; I find more comfort in the many, many names I don’t recognize. The growing list of people actively stating that they believe in Interfaith Cooperation, respect and celebrate our community’s religious diversity, and will take a stand to support those principles is hopeful and inspiring.
The Atlanta Interfaith Manifesto is a sign to the world that we will not depend on luck to survive. We will depend on each other.
In March 2015, Judy Marx was named the first Executive Director of Interfaith Community Initatives, Inc. (ICI). In this position, she oversees ICI’s many programs, including World Pilgrims™, Atlanta Interfaith Leaders Forum, and Immersion Experiences, as well as represents interfaith efforts at community events and works with faith leadership across the city.
Prior to joining ICI, for three years Judy consulted with nonprofit organizations to improve their fundraising, community relations and leadership development. Judy spent 12-½ years with American Jewish Committee where she served as the Atlanta Director, and where she was the Founding Director of the award-winning Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. She has remained involved in the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, co-chairing the Film Evaluation Committee for two years and currently co-chairing the festival’s Community Engagement Committee. Also, in 2011 and 2013, Judy produced ReelAbilities ATL, Atlanta’s only disabilities film festival, working under the auspices of Georgia Community Support & Solutions.
http://atlantainterfaithmanifesto.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/blank-logo-300x65.png00Rachelhttp://atlantainterfaithmanifesto.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/blank-logo-300x65.pngRachel2017-02-13 14:37:482017-08-25 18:31:30Judy Marx: Atlanta Interfaith Manifesto shows we will depend on each other to survive
Eboo Patel, founder of the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) always gives a great speech, but he made one the other night that was particularly powerful as some three hundred college students, along with supporting faculty and student affairs professionals from all over the United States, gathered at IFYC’s Interfaith Leadership Institute dinner at the Loudermilk Center in Atlanta. In the wake of recent developments at odds with interfaith cooperation, Eboo crafted his comments to focus on the concerns of those students dedicated to interfaith cooperation. Sharing those concerns, I listened attentively to his various profound messages, some of which I will pass along.
Addressing the contentious, divisive environment now before us, Eboo called for thoughtful, non-combative dialogue when confronting bigoted rhetoric, emphasizing that venting our frustrations seldom changes opinions. The statement he used as an example, “I always thought you were a bigot,” demonstrates the type of dysfunctional attitude that never achieves positive results.
In his answer to a question about frustration from failure to change attitudes, Eboo pointed out that one’s actions – as opposed to statements — can inspire others in ways that are not always immediately apparent. Civil Rights Movement history is replete with stories of heroes whose actions inspired subsequent – though frequently not immediate – changes in attitudes and calls to action.
In a way that I found most moving, Eboo described how goodness often emerges from bad situations, and how beauty can spring from ugliness. (This is the part we really needed to hear). He gave examples ranging from an Underground Railroad departure point in Savannah, Georgia, to the inspiration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s heroism at a particularly vicious march confrontation in Chicago.
These comments reminded me of recent reports of reactions to changes in U.S. immigration policy. This is a contentious issue, to say the least, but we are now seeing more examples of people of different faiths standing up for each other. This is a departure from the more commonly observed Christians-for-Christians, Jews-for-Jews, or Muslims-for-Muslims reactions. Now, we are seeing Catholics, Jews, Unitarians, Episcopalians, Lutherans, and leaders of other faiths objecting to the demonization of Muslims. This strikes me as a particularly beautiful thing at a time when we can use all the beauty we can get.
The one commonality across all of Eboo’s comments was that taking the high road when confronting a difficult situation is always best. And it was most gratifying to hear one of the preeminent leaders of interfaith cooperation convey this message to a group of highly motivated young people.
http://atlantainterfaithmanifesto.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/blank-logo-300x65.png00Rachelhttp://atlantainterfaithmanifesto.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/blank-logo-300x65.pngRachel2017-02-02 15:56:362017-08-25 18:31:21Eboo Patel Brings His Message to Atlanta
As a young boy growing up in Uganda under the reprobate leadership of Idi Amin in the seventies, I witnessed this leadership begin to develop a new form of authoritarianism, which took on a religious tone.
In the summer of 1975 Idi Amin announced that Uganda was to change its calendar. Rather than Saturday and Sunday being the weekend days of rest, we would instead rest on Friday so he could worship his god and go back to work on Saturday and Sunday. This change was for the purpose of following his Muslim tradition. On the surface this appeared to be a cause for a concern. The decree was done without the consent of the people, parliament, or even the Muslim community that sought to live in harmony with everyone else.
After the calendar change decree, my family and I along with many others started to see what seemed as an innocuous action set off a series of dictatorial actions that began the end of Uganda’s democracy. After the war began, over 200,000 Ugandans were killed within a span of eight years. My family left a comfortable life and ended up as refugees during Idi Amin’s miasma of terror.
Why is this story important to the Atlanta Interfaith Manifesto? It is a cautionary tale to remind all of us how intolerance begins and what happens in its aftermath. Like a tumor, intolerance begins as a benign growth and if one doesn’t pay attention to it, it shouldn’t shock any of us when it becomes cancerous and starts to eat away at the very core of our wellbeing.
Intolerance shrinks the marketplace of ideas and it requires a lot of resources to master at the expense of innovation and a diversity of opportunities for all. The only way I have been afforded another chance at life, as a former refugee, is when I came to this great nation that offered me the opportunity to be someone with dreams and aspirations. A free America suggests that you are equal under the eyes of God with inalienable God-given rights and that’s a powerful and empowering raison d’être for a country to have at its core. Who would have ever imagined that I would go from a miserable refugee boy to now being the CEO of one of the most significant organizations in Atlanta!
The Center for Civil and Human Rights represents the successful evolution of the American spirit. We as Americans can set upon the journey of correcting our misdeeds of yesteryear and create the voting rights bill, Brown vs. Board, and so many other legislative victories to create a true and perfect Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
To that end, the point of the Atlanta Interfaith Manifesto is to remind us of our success in inclusiveness and to instruct us not to cower behind the oppression of intolerance. As Americans, we are supposed to be the global example going beyond tolerance at its best and striving for a far more integrative measure. We must pursue a religious love that authors equality at all levels within our social, political, economic and spiritual life. In Christianity, where I belong, like in many religions, we say love your neighbor as you love yourself. Let’s determine to set our civilization apart by being the very essence of love. The Atlanta Interfaith Manifesto seeks to bring God’s Kingdom in heaven down on earth so the least among us can get reprieve. Your participation in that action is a Godly act and shall be noted for its gumption!
Derreck Kayongo is the Chief Executive Officer of The National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Inc. He and his family fled a civil war in Uganda and settled in Kenya as refugees. He then found his way to the U.S. where he became a successful entrepreneur as the founder of the Global Soap Project, a program which takes partially used soap from hotels, recycles them into new bars of soap, and redistributes the new bars to vulnerable populations around the world. Kayongo has been featured as a TEDx speaker and at several corporate and university forums. He recently coauthored, “The Roadmap to Success,” with Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dr. Ken Blanchard. Within this work, Kayongo focuses on Understanding the Instructive Power of Failure When Building Successful Ventures.
http://atlantainterfaithmanifesto.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/blank-logo-300x65.png00Rachelhttp://atlantainterfaithmanifesto.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/blank-logo-300x65.pngRachel2017-01-30 19:25:212017-08-25 18:31:14Dr. Derreck Kayongo answers the question, "Why is the Atlanta Interfaith Manifesto important?"