Columbia religious leaders promote tolerance

Monday, September 13, 2010 | 7:55 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The Missouri United Methodist Church was bare of any religious paraphernalia during a news conference urging tolerance among religions, signifying its push for compassion.

About 60 people attended the conference Monday where eight local religious leaders urged members of all religious affiliations to stand together. Members of several faiths attended the news conference. Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, also attended.

Amy Gearhart, senior pastor at the United Methodist Church, moderated the event aimed at promoting solidarity and tolerance in face of the recent national incidents involving anti-Muslim sentiments.

Taha Hameduddin of the Islamic Center of Central Missouri started his speech with a prayer of Moses asking for openness to his message. Hameduddin congratulated the audience and the speakers for gathering to promote friendship among religions.

He also highlighted the misconceptions surrounding Islam.

“Mutual respect and religious tolerance are teachings of the Quran," Hameduddin said. "And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

David Finke, local chairman of the Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers, reminded the audience of America’s history of discrimination against many religions.

“The mindset which promotes burning the sacred books of another faith differs only in degree from promoting the burning of houses of worship,” Finke said. “And it can be but a small step toward burning people.”

Finke mentioned several incidents, including the persecution of Quakers in the 1660s and the anti-Catholic riots of the 19th century. He said current discriminatory sentiments are similar to those that led to the Holocaust.

“We must respect the ability of each to pursue our religious practices without harassment," Finke said. "To do otherwise is to be profoundly un-American.”

Gearhart called for a renewed focus on dialogue among different faiths in the community.

“We should do this by simply asking, ‘Do we know our neighbors?’” Gearhart said.

Columbia residents welcomed the effort to promote tolerance among religions.

“I’m so glad we’re doing this,” said Judith Heffernan, a member of the United Methodist Church and longtime Columbia resident.

Speakers at the event also included: Kerry Hollander, executive director of Hillel, the Jewish Campus Center at MU; the Rev. Bonnie Cassida of Bethel Baptist Church; and the Rev. Otto Steinhaus, retired pastor and co-chairman of the Columbia Human Rights Commission.

The Baha’i and Hindu communities were also represented.


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Ray Shapiro September 13, 2010 | 9:01 p.m.

(“Mutual respect and religious tolerance are teachings of the Quran," Hameduddin said. "And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”)

Tell them yourself...

("Islamic Extremism
Islamic Terrorist Organizations")

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith September 13, 2010 | 10:11 p.m.

"Slay them wherever you find them, and drive them out of the places they drove you from. Idolatry is worse than war. But do not fight them within the precincts of the Mosque unless they first attack you there; but if they attack you there, then slay them. Such is the reward of unbelievers...

"Fight them until idolatry is no more, and God's religion is supreme."

- Koran (Sura ii)

[Now THAT'S what I call "pacific."]

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush September 14, 2010 | 10:45 a.m.

As long as we're quoting from holy books:

"Moses said to them, "Have you let all the women live? Behold, these caused the people of Israel, by the counsel of Balaam, to act treacherously against the LORD in the matter of Pe'or, and so the plague came among the congregation of the LORD. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves." Numbers 31

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush September 14, 2010 | 10:58 a.m.

Actually, maybe my post wasn't too fair - but that's the point.
Yet another clinic on irony - here's a reasonable, moderate message from our Muslim brethren and the first post is a link to extremist fanatics.
While I could post links to Christian terrorist organizations...I would want to give anyone any ideas.
Instead, I'll post some positive biblical passages -
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Matthew 5:43-44
Here's the New King James version:
"You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you."
Let's hear some blessings; let's hear some prayers; let's see some 'good'.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro September 14, 2010 | 11:43 a.m.


Wooing Recruits To Radical Islam Like 'Dating'

by Dina Temple-Raston
National Public Radio")

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush September 14, 2010 | 12:58 p.m.

Still no blessings - no prayers - no good.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro September 14, 2010 | 1:09 p.m.

("Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, also attended.")

I guess this must be part of an Obama initiative.
Do you think he'll have "Hug a Jew" day?

(Report Comment)
David Finke September 15, 2010 | 5:32 p.m.

Mr. Shapiro's comments show precisely why we need more events such as the one which I helped organize, which was gratifyingly attended by a good number of folks who care about our advancing our mutual understanding, and overcoming both our ignorance and our fears.

I wish he could have joined me as a guest at the Mosque recently when non-Muslim were invited to help observe the breaking of the fast (no food or water during the day) during the month of Ramadan. Every time I am with local Muslims I learn something new... and realize how far yet we have to go in gaining greater insight into a faith tradition with over a billion adherents worldwide.

I was reminded of this again when I saw a hateful picture posted on a FaceBook page purportedly addressing Islamophobia, where a troll put up a photo of the back of his pickup truck (which also happened to have a Confederate flag): it was a picture of the Twin Towers in flames, and had the text, "All I need to know about Islam." That not only perpetuates hate and a drive for vengeance; it also celebrates ignorance.

I realize that I am now addressing questions beyond what Mr. Shapiro has said for himself. But I do take this occasion to ask how Christians would feel if they saw a photo of a KKK cross-burning, with a superimposed text, "All I need to know about Christianity"?

In a separate comment, I will add what we had to say in Columbia's Human Rights Commission in the days following 9/11/01, warning against scapegoating an entire religious tradition or ethnicity because of abhorrent actions by a few who claim that identity.

In contrast to this, the group meeting Monday at Missouri United Methodist Church identified a number of opportunities here in Columbia for Interfaith cooperation: structured dialogue, joint efforts in raising money for relief and development (e.g., the upcoming CROP Walk against Hunger,) and simply getting to know each other better by sharing meals and conversation.

We should all be deeply grateful to Rev. Amy Gearhart for the creativity and hospitality of having hosted us, and "getting the ball rolling" for more such exchanges of experience and perspective. This is a great town where such things are possible, and minds can be opened. Thank you, Columbia!

(Report Comment)
David Finke September 15, 2010 | 5:38 p.m.

Statement by the Human Rights Commission,
City of Columbia
Adopted September 26, 2001

In light of the recent tragedies in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania, the Human Rights
Commission reaffirms our commitment to uphold the laws of Columbia, of Missouri, the Constitution of the United States, and the spirit of what is best in Columbia: We remind all of us of the evils of discrimination based on religion, national origin, race, and our other protected categories.

We have noted with dismay the scattered -- and yetserious -- incidents of intergroup harassment, and
applaud our Police Department's stated policy of providing protection to all. Our investigative staff stands ready to pursue complaints of discriminatory behavior in violation of our Human Rights Ordinance.

It is manifestly clear to us that no one group should ever be held responsible for violent and fanatical acts undertaken by some members of that group.

Therefore, we call upon our fellow citizens to work creatively and with diligence to enhance the diversity of this community, and to provide an example of how a rich variety of groups may live in harmony and mutual respect.

# # #

(Report Comment)

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