Sunday, January 29, 2017

Love of Neighbor (Particularly the Most Vulnerable)

“We must not allow fear to destroy our ability to make our home, America, a safe place for our families to prosper in peace."  - Faisal Nabulsi, President of the Islamic Center of New Mexico
Faisal, Eiffert, Daniel, Baz with moderator Richard Wood
Where do we draw the line between a desire to come together and listen to all points of view and the need to stand up for what we think is right and just? The tension between those two religious values was evident in the room as speakers from four major faith traditions: Judaism (Rabbi Evelyn Baz, Congregation B'nai Israel), Islam (Faisal Nabulsi, Islamic Center of New Mexico), Evangelical Christian  (David Eiffert, Believers Center of Albuquerque), and Roman Catholic (Rev. John Daniel, Archdiocese of Santa Fe), addressed a forum on countering hate. All the seats in Ballroom A of the Student Union Building at the University of New Mexico were filled on Thursday, January 26.

A major tenet of the four Abraham traditions is that love of neighbor, particularly those who are most vulnerable in society, should take priority. This value must not be separate from an even more important tenet of our faith traditions, which is loving our Creator with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  Still, we cannot stand by passively while our neighbors are being oppressed. How do we respond appropriately from a perspective that tells us that we are all created equal in the Creator's eyes? We cannot love our God completely unless we love those who share this Earth with us.

"What is to stop a congregation from declaring itself a sanctuary?" was a question posed to the panel. Father Daniel of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe said, "Nothing" As far as individual parishes, he said this was a decision of the pastor, the church leadership and the congregation. Rich Wood took the position of the Devil's advocate, saying. "What if the federal government decides to take your 401CR status?" Father Daniel thought about it for a while, and said "So be it." Still, a very difficult decision

The forum on a Thursday evening was a precursor to two other related events on Friday, January 27: a press conference at the Islamic Center of New Mexico decrying President Donald Trump's new punitive measures for refugees, including an indefinite ban for Syrians.  Read article in Albuquerque Journal about press conference at Islamic Center.

Later that Friday, controversial speaker Milo Yiannopolous, who has publicly expressed overtly bigoted and racist views, spoke at UNM to a crowd of supporters and hundreds of protestors. See article in Albuquerque Journal entitled UNM speech draws hecklers, protesters and an interview on KOAT-TV with Sandra Akkad, a protestor who stood up to Yiannopoulous (and was ejected from the forum).  "The hate speech that he was spewing incited violence, and when you cross that boundary you no longer have the privilege of what free speech was meant for," Akkad told KOAT. 

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