Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist faith leaders in South Dakota will gather at the capital to pray and present the governor and legislators with a statement advocating safety and respect for all faith communities. They ask for our prayers for this Interfaith Day, as they stand together against prejudice and hate. Bishop Dave Zeller of the South Dakota Synod is a leader in this movement, and has asked other ELCA synods to join them in prayer.
The timing is appropriate, as next Monday is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and Thursday the 18th is the start of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The Interfaith Day combines the best of both celebrations, and asks all people of good will to join in.
In Wyoming, the Wyoming Association of Churches has transitioned into the Wyoming Interfaith Network, with focus on justice, civil discourse and understanding, as well as advocacy in the Legislature. In Montana, the Montana Association of Christians (MAC, formerly the Montana Association of Churches) does similar work.
Below please find the statement from our neighbors in South Dakota, and pray for peace and harmony:
We as leaders in the faith community stand together with our neighbors of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds in South Dakota.
Each of our religious traditions teaches that human beings have the opportunity and the obligation to build communities in which peace and mutual respect are core expressions of an ethical life. Our religions teach us that we must stand up for the rights and freedoms of all members of the communities in which we live, including people of faith backgrounds different from our own. This vision of just treatment for all human beings is born of our religious faith. We believe that this is entirely consistent with our shared American value that religious freedom is guaranteed to people of all faiths and of no faith.
In sharp contrast to this vision, we have recently witnessed a rise in hateful activity that degrades other religions and denies the religious freedom of many, especially Muslims and Jews. There has been an increase in hate speech, crimes and bullying directed against Muslims and Jews; growing opposition to the building or expansion of mosques; and a troubling wave of state legislative initiatives across America and in South Dakota aimed at discriminating against Muslims and others. We are people of different faiths across South Dakota who, in keeping with this state’s traditions and values, are committed to ending anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic sentiment in our state and our country. Together we stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds in South Dakota and across this great nation. We invite all people of conscience to join us in these actions:
· REFLECT on what will heal divisions in our communities;
· PARTNER across faith lines to know one another better and address issues of common concern, such as affirming and promoting religious freedom.
· TELL the positive stories of these multi-faith partnerships publicly in order to report this reality to the media and shape public dialogue; and,
· DENOUNCE hatred, bigotry, violence and the use of misinformation against all people wherever we see it in word or in action.
Only by taking a stand together can we fulfill the highest callings of our respective faiths and help build a South Dakota and an America that is safer and stronger because of our religious and ethnic diversity.
May it be so!
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA