ILGL Official Response to Racism in Our Community

27 May 2020

Recently, the Interfaith Leaders of Greater Lafayette (ILGL) created a “Virtual Rally” in response to the distribution of KKK flyers in Battle Ground. The “Virtual Rally” raised up the voices of those who know that diversity is one of our community’s greatest strengths. 

While we were heartened by the response, the faith leaders of ILGL also recognize that many of our sisters and brothers are grieving. The disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on communities of color -and the recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and George Floyd in Minneapolis- highlight and reinforce the on-going legacy of racism and white supremacy in our nation. When incidents of hate show up in our state or local community (such as the KKK flyers and a cross burning in Battle Ground or recent police shootings in Indianapolis), this grief can become overwhelming and justifiably turn to anger. Such events are an on-going sign that, as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King remarked in 1963, America’s promissory note of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” has come back marked “insufficient funds,” at least for many Americans. 

As faith leaders, we recognize the divine spark in each and every human being regardless of the categories that are too often used to divide us. More than that, we are committed to justice for all people. When we see our sisters and brothers grieve because of racial injustice, we recognize this as a sign of the world’s brokenness. As people of faith, we acknowledge in our own unique ways that the divine grieves with them, that creation longs for peace and justice, and that we are called to respond. 

In response, ILGL remains committed to the work of anti-racism within our community; to raise up the voices of peace, love, and justice; and to work together to make the world where all people can live in harmony. To this end, we call on people of every faith and all those of goodwill to speak out against bigotry and to educate themselves for anti-racist work (that is, the work of dismantling racist structures and institutions that pervade our society). We call on our political leaders and our local police departments to guarantee the safety of all members of our community by investigating, arresting, and convicting those who threaten or intimidate others and by developing rules of engagement that protect people of color. ILGL recommits ourselves to working with faith leaders, other community leaders, and people of goodwill to make Greater Lafayette greater still.  

Sincerely,

The Interfaith Leaders of Greater Lafayette

ILGL Statement: A Response to Governor Holcomb’s Plan to Re-Open Houses of Worship

Dear Members of the Interfaith Leaders of Greater Lafayette,

In light of Governor Holcomb’s recently announced decision to allow houses of worship to hold worship services starting Friday without limitation, we offer the following Response:

The Mission Statement for ILGL reminds us that we are a coalition of leaders of religious institutions and organizations in greater Lafayette dedicated to dialogue, service, hope, and a shared vision for our local community. During these uncertain times, we all must wrestle with what our shared vision must be in order to keep members of our communities safe and healthy. 

The situation in our state of Indiana is a dire one, with COVID-19 cases rising and the numbers of infected truly unknown due to lack of testing.  We also know from experts, as well as experience from past American pandemics, that COVID-19 will come and go in waves, and that the future is, indeed, unknown.

Therefore, in response to the Governor’s decision, we give the following response:

While we appreciate the Governor’s appropriation of religious communities as “the most responsible” groups to fully open, we recognize that this level of responsibility does not and should not rest on the shoulders of individual faith leaders.  In our continued quest to preserve and protect the lives of our flocks, we rely upon our safety networks such as our governing bodies, hierarchies, boards of directors, and most importantly, the secular scientific evaluations of these kinds of risks.  These are matters of life and death, and no one faith leader should be fully responsible to make these difficult decisions alone. 

It is for these reasons that we strongly encourage all houses of worship, all congregations, of every size, their leaders and members, to refrain from in-person religious gatherings, including worship, for the foreseeable future.  We strongly encourage all our faith communities to begin or continue virtual worship, education, and pastoral care opportunities in place of gathering in person.  

Additionally, we wish to respond to the Governor’s statement in hoping faith communities will serve as a “test or control group” under his reopening plan. As faith leaders who spend our days caring for our flock, members of the human race who are flesh and blood, we do not see any reason to risk the lives of our members in order to test the outcome of gathering together.  While we appreciate placebo and control groups in experiments, possibly exposing our vulnerable members to a deadly virus is not a test in which we, as those who honor the value of human life, wish to participate, for it breaks the principle of treating others as we would have others treat us. 

It is our sincere hope that faith leaders and lay leaders within our community will put the safety and health of their congregants first, and continue to wait patiently for the day in which we can all safely embrace one another in the same holy spaces. 

In almost every religion, dating from ancient Egypt to modern times and spanning the globe across cultures, there is some form of what is often called the “golden rule.” This is also present in secular philosophy and ethics across cultures and history. It is articulated in the 1993 statement by the Parliament of the World’s Religions entitled “Declaration Toward a Global Ethic” which states, “We must treat others as we wish others to treat us.” We believe this is a universal principle that can extend to all faith communities. 

We believe that we are all responsible for one another and all have responsibility to keep each other safe just as we would want others to keep us safe. To that end, we implore faith communities to follow the advice of health care professionals about when to safely gather together as people of faith. 

The Interfaith Leaders of Greater Lafayette

Letter to the Editor – Response to Pastor Steve Viars’ Op-Ed in Journal & Courier

13 September 2019

We write as Christian leaders in the greater Lafayette area to bring a different perspective on the Biblical letter from James that Pastor Viars quotes in his recent editorial

The letter from James does indeed call its adherents to refrain from snap judgment. There is however a difference between snap judgment and a requirement that corporate entities at Purdue must abide by the stated values of the University. Let us not conflate snap judgment with speaking the truth in love. 

Really, the letter from James is a call to love our neighbor with acts of grace and compassion, to reach out to those in the community who are truly marginalized.  This includes LGBTQIA people, people of color, our interfaith neighbors, the homeless and hungry, and all who have been excluded simply for being who God created them to be. As Christians, we are called to proclaim that God’s love is about welcoming and accepting everyone and to speak out on behalf of those on the margins.

James also calls us to work to eradicate hunger. “If a brother or sister lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?”  Rather than defending corporations, our energy is better spent supporting the important work of organizations like Food Finders and LUM.  Join us on September 22 at the Hunger Hike as we answer James’ call.

The Rev. Deanna Brown

The Rev. Kevin Bowers, Bethany Presbyterian Church

The Rev. Dr. Hilary Cooke, St. John’s Episcopal Church

The Rev. Lisa Williams Hood, First Baptist Church

Joe Micon, Lafayette Urban Ministries

The Rev. Rosemary Morrison, Unitarian Universalist Church

The Rev. Lucia Oerter, Central Presbyterian Church

The Rev. Dr. Bradley Pace, St. John’s Episcopal Church

The Rev. Kevin Bowers, Bethany Presbyterian Church

The Rev. Dr. Hilary Cooke, St. John’s Episcopal Church

The Rev. Lisa Williams Hood, First Baptist Church

The Rev. Dr. Bradley Pace, St. John’s Episcopal Church

ILGL Statement on Recent Mass Shootings in the United States

The Interfaith Leaders of Greater Lafayette are horrified and heartbroken over the mass shootings in Gilroy California, El Paso Texas, and Dayton Ohio.  We, and our partner organizations and congregations, send strength to the mourners and peace to the cities once again broken by the plague of gun violence in our society.  

As a coalition of religious leaders, we look to the Bible for guidance, and remember that we are commanded to pursue justice and peace on behalf of humanity.   We hear the words of the Prophets Isaiah and Micah, who tell the people of the world to “beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks.” (Isaiah 2:4/Micah 4:3)  We are commanded by the Divine, not only to mourn the victims of violence, not only to offer our prayers, but to transform weapons of destruction into tools for the greater good of society, and we must work together to do so.  Additionally, we read in the creation story of Genesis: “And God created human beings in the divine image, in the image of the Divine, God created them…”(Genesis 1:27)

The taking of any human life, therefore, is an attack on the Divine image itself and upon God.  Every life is sacred, regardless of race, religion, culture, sexual orientation, or citizenship status.  All of us carry within us the spark of the Divine and when a light goes out, a part of all of us is chipped away.

 We urge those with power to not look away at these senseless, preventable acts of hatred, violence, and evil; we ask them to not only offer thoughts and prayers, but to provide action to curb this pandemic of gun violence and the loss of innocents on our streets, in our city squares, and in every corner of our country.

May the memories of the lives lost be a blessing, and may the One who makes peace in the high places, make peace over us and over all of humanity, as we say, Amen.   

ILGL Statement on Synagogue Shooting – April, 2019

At six months since the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue, and on the final day of Passover, we, the Interfaith Leaders of Greater Lafayette are heartbroken to hear of another attack against Jews in the United States, this time at Congregation Chabad in Poway, California.  We mourn the death of Lori Kaye, and we pray for the recovery of Noya Dahan, a child of only 9 years old, Almog Peretz (34), and Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein (57).  This deadly and bloody hateful attack is yet another indication of the rise of White Supremacy in our country, when, for the first time in our nation’s history, Neo-Nazis, KKK members, and other hate groups feel validated and emboldened by those who serve in political leadership in our government. It is the hope of the ILGL that this incident, as well as the many other incidents that occur each day in our country, fuels a serious conversation about antisemitism and all forms of hate that are rising to the surface. 

Additionally, we cannot ignore the fact that this incident occurred with the use of an assault rifle, causing yet another active shooting incident in America, now the world’s capital of mass shootings.  It is the hope, as well, of ILGL, that this incident triggers a thoughtful conversation in our government about access of civilians to weapons of warfare.  The Jewish community in the Greater Lafayette area thank the outpouring of support and grief from neighbors, and look forward to future interfaith work to bring peace and positivity in our city. 

ILGL Statement on Violence in Sri Lanka – April 2019

We as the Interfaith Leaders of Greater Lafayette wish to condemn the tragic acts of violence in churches and hotels in Colombo, Negombo, and Batticaloa, Sri Lanka.  We respond with a sense of deep sadness and grief that nearly 300 worshipers were killed and countless more injured on Easter, the holiest day for most people of the Christian faith.  We believe all people have the right to worship as they please and deserve to do so without fear of violence. 

While the individuals and groups who perpetrated this horrific act are still being sought by authorities and will likely be brought to justice by the authorities in Sri Lanka, it is also well to remember that radical factions of any group do not represent the broadest and best of any group or faith.  We continue to encourage people to work towards the freedom of all people in all places to worship as they see fit, and for all of us to work for justice and peace.   Let us join in prayer for the families touched by this tragedy and work as we are each able for a better world for all people. 

ILGL Statement on Fires at Holy Sites – April 2019

A church building is not the same thing as a church community. A Mosque cannot fully embody the prayers of the faithful that gather there. A holy site is holy because of the way it brings worshipers together. And yet, our buildings, our community centers, our holy sites provide space where we connect with one another and to the divine.  No matter the religion it houses, a place of worship is holy to those who keep it holy, and thus the Interfaith Leaders of Greater Lafayette (ILGL) mourn along side those of any religion who see their sacred spaces damaged.

Members of ILGL watched with great sadness as the great Cathedral Church of Notre Dame was heavily damaged by fire yesterday. We were also saddened to see that the Al Aqsa Mosque—one of Islam’s most holy sites—was also damaged by fire. We offer prayers for the church community that worships at the Notre Dame in Paris and for all those who have glimpsed the beauty of God there. We pray also for the Muslim community in Jerusalem and for those who answer the call to prayer at the Al Aqsa Mosque.