This guide is republished with permission from United Religions Initiative. Learn more at uri.org.
IDEAS FOR ACTION BY FAITH COMMUNITIES, INTERFAITH GROUPS AND URI COOPERATION CIRCLES
Bring attention to the issue of intolerance toward Muslims, Jews and members of other religious communities, and discuss ways your group or congregation can respond. Include prayers or poems by writers from targeted communities, and prayers that call for acceptance of people of all religions and spiritual traditions. The Interfaith Prayer Book is a resource that offers prayers from six major world religions and celebrates their shared spiritual values.
- Include music or chants from different religious traditions in your religious community’s worship services or ritual observances. Look for ways in which music from other faiths connects to your religious tradition as well as expands your understanding of your faith. For example, Heartbeat Jerusalem is a URI Cooperation Circle that creates opportunities and spaces for young Israeli and Palestinian musicians to work together, hear each other, and amplify their voices for peace.
- Organize an interfaith service in which clergy from different faiths read from one another’s texts. Visit http://www.faithshared.org/ for ideas and information.
- Contact a religious center different than your own to inquire if your group might visit, and spend time learning about it and meeting with the religious leader and other community leaders. Invite the religious leader and community members to visit your place of worship as well.
- Send a bouquet of flowers to a religious center in your neighborhood on one of their religious holidays with a simple message, such as “We honor and celebrate this holy day with you.” An extensive calendar of religious observances can be found through this link.
- Send condolences in times of hardship or following an incident of discrimination or violence.
- If you are a leader of a congregation or of a religious or spiritual organization of any kind, reach out to your membership through your oratory or a letter to promote respect among religions and encourage them to help uphold religious freedom.
- Organize a letter-writing campaign to media agencies that spread misinformation and/or stir up hostility toward Muslims, Jews or members of other religious groups. Work with other faith communities to write joint letters urging cessation of hate speech transmitted over radio, television and the Internet. Or focus your campaign on a local elected representative who could amplify the need for unity and healing rather than division and fear.
- Write a joint letter or statement of respect of and support for targeted religious communities. Post it on your Web site, send it to local media, and request that it be circulated at local houses of worship and community centers.
- Invite a well-informed speaker on Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, or another religion you would like to know more about to educate your group or congregation about the basic beliefs and essential practices of this tradition.
- Organize an interfaith panel discussion with a diverse group of religious speakers from your community -- perhaps a man and a woman, younger and older, native-born and immigrant -- to share what they love about their faith and traditions. Leave plenty of time for questions and answers with your community members.
DIALOGUE AND DISCUSSION
- Host a hospitality dinner that celebrates religious and ethnic diversity. Invite people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds and different sectors of the community, such as faith leaders, legislators, police officers, firefighters, teachers or school administrators, etc. At each table, include people of different backgrounds or people who have never met. Encourage simple conversation starters such as self- introductions; sharing a tradition or phrase from each person’s faith that they find meaningful; discussing aspects of the food or its preparation that are particular to each culture; sharing stories of when each person first moved to this community and why they like it, etc.
- Host special interfaith meditation and dialogue discussions, or replace an existing meeting agenda with a special interfaith opportunity. Ideas for these gatherings include:
- Meditation and discussion: Choose three quotations from different scriptures or selected writings that speak eloquently of tolerance and acceptance among faith traditions. Sit in a circle; go around the circle asking each person to read; repeat each reading twice. After each selection, hold a period of silent meditation. Invite conversation and reflection on these passages.
- Video discussion: Locate exceptional videos about religions you would like to learn more about or current perspectives and issues involving people from different religious traditions. Initiate a discussion after the film, with questions such as: what parts of the video(s) moved you? What parts taught you something you didn’t know? What parts raised questions for you? What parts inspired you to change something in your life? (See Not In Our Town recommended videos below.)
- Appreciative interviews: Create paired conversations in your gathering to focus attention on the positive achievements and experiences of religious traditions, interfaith cooperation and relationship-building. Set up interviews asking each pair to interview one another.
- Sample questions could include:
- Please share a story of an interfaith encounter that was especially memorable or
- meaningful? Was there was a genuine feeling of respect and friendship?
- What actions or practices or holy words from a religious tradition different from your own are meaningful for you? Share an instance where you learned something about another faith tradition which you appreciated.
- Describe a few experiences of interfaith cooperation that impressed you. What might happen in your own community if people of different faith traditions worked together – embracing and celebrating their diversity?
NOT IN OUR TOWN VIDEOS
See how communities have come together to support faith communities and talk back to hate in these Not In Our Town videos. These videos are a great way to start dialogue and also serve as inspiration for action.
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