Kate LaClair, Chair, Ethical Action Committee
Open bigotry and xenophobia in America, not only from private individuals but from the Executive and Legislative branches of government, have resurfaced to levels that I think we all fervently hoped never to see again. But we know that hoping for peace, stability and non-violence is not enough. We must continually participate in cultivating and sustaining these values through our own actions, and by involving our families and communities.
Many of us feel the urgency of building understanding and respect among people of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds, but it can be hard to know where to begin and how to keep it going. Know Your Neighbor: Multifaith Encounters is a coalition of religious and humanist groups led by the Islamic Networks Group (ING), and created in response to rising hate and division against Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (AMEMSA) communities and other minorities. It provides a shared space where individuals and communities can find and attend events of other religious and cultural groups in their neighborhoods, and can invite the interfaith community to their events in turn.
How can your Society take part?
- Join the Campaign as a partner. The Washington Ethical Society is already a partner, and is listed on the interactive interfaith map with a link to their Society website.
- Encourage other humanist and faith groups to join the Campaign. If you work in an interfaith coalition already, helping them get connected to this network is a great way to expand their reach and impact.
- Bring your members to a local Know Your Neighbor event. The interactive map shows upcoming events in the current month, as well as local groups that you can partner with. Don’t see an event up near you? Try contacting one of the groups nearby and see what’s coming up, extend your support as a neighbor, and invite them to keep in touch.
- Organize your own Know Your Neighbor event! ING has a speakers bureau ready to give talks to better familiarize non-Muslims with Islamic culture and interfaith panels on topics like “Shared Values Among Faiths,” “Religion and Pluralism,” and “Separation of Church and State.” They are also willing to work with groups to create custom talks and panels to bring different groups together, and have materials suitable for Sunday Schools. Host an event, post it on the map, and invite other groups in your area to attend!
- Organize a training for your Ethical Action Committee or others in capacity-building and engagement with interfaith work. This is a great place to start if your Society has never engaged with faith groups before and would like further education before jumping in.
In explaining the Know Your Neighbor Campaign, ING writes,
“It is human nature to mistrust the unknown. Our communities are only as strong as the connections we have, the connections we make, and the connections we build. It is not enough to engage with others in our communities only in crisis situations when there is a need to respond to an immediate threat. Instead, we need to intentionally build the strength and capacity of our communities on an institutional and organizational level – which begins when we get to know our neighbors.”