Baha'i News -- Faith leaders confront racism
Faith leaders confront racism
PROVIDENCE Six months after pledging to become models of repentance in the campaign to combat racism,
representatives of more than 30 faith groups gathered at Temple Emanu-El yesterday to measure their
With backgrounds ranging from Protestant and Catholic to Baha'i, Muslim, Unitarian and Jewish, most of
the participants had been among the 48 faith leaders who assembled at the First Baptist Church in America
last October to sign a "faith leaders initiative" against racism.
At that earlier session, held only a month after Sept. 11, clergy and laity agreed they would attempt to
"live by compassion and be consciously inclusive of all individuals," and to "transform" their institutions
into "authentically anti-racist and anti-oppressive communities of action."
Yesterday, in a session that began with bagels and pastries in a Conservative Jewish synagogue, Waleed
Muhammad recalled how after the September attacks he and other leaders in the Muslim-American Dawah Center
of Rhode Island were kept busy opening their doors to non-Muslims and answering invitations to speak.
He had seen such neighborliness once before, he said, 24 years ago in the aftermath of the Blizzard of
"You remember how after awhile [after the blizzard] things went back to normal," he said. "I hope this
time we never get back to normal.... I hope that we will continue to have that spirit of feeling for each
other. The only way we will do that is by working together and doing the kind of exercises we are doing
In terms of specific progress, participants pointed to work being done making tiles for a "Wall of Hope"
to be erected next Sept. 11 on the side of The Providence Journal building and in the tunnel near
Waterplace Park. The Wall is a project of the National Conference for Community and Justice, which is also
behind the faith leaders initiative.
Pat Jaehnig, justice and peace education coordinator for the Diocese of Providence, said there have been
other developments as well, such as the display of unity that was shown when Roman Catholic Bishop Robert
E. Mulvee invited an array of religious leaders to Beneficent Church in Providence in January to pray for
And more recently, she said, the diocese has decided to create an Office of Ethnic Minorities to advise
parishes on how to be more open and welcoming to ethnic minorities.
Judy Kaye, of Temple Emanu-El, said the temple has had a relationship over the last several years with
members of the predominantly black Congdon Street Baptist Church and would like to start a similar
relationship with the Muslims.
Rob Jones, program director for the National Conference for Community and Justice, said he was happy with
yesterday's meeting. He believes the organizers hope now to send questionnaires to all the faith groups to
ask them what they've done, so that their ideas and projects can be shared and replicated by other
churches, synagogues, and temples in Rhode Island.
©Copyright 2002, Providence Journal
Page last updated/revised 040902
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