This article was published in the Las Vegas Sun
Editor’s note: Last week, the Interfaith Council of Southern Nevada reached out to faith leaders across the nation to share the messages they presented to their spiritual communities this past weekend on the death of George Floyd and underlying problems of racism and social injustice. Today, the Sun shares the remarks collected by the council in hopes that they inspire unity and individual reflection on how Americans can contribute to progress on the issues.
The tensions, divisions and injustices that currently beset America are symptoms of a longstanding illness.
The nation is afflicted with a deep spiritual disorder, manifest in rampant materialism, widespread moral decay and a deeply ingrained racial prejudice.
As a result, millions of our fellow citizens are prevented from making their full contributions to society and of partaking fully in its benefits. No one is immune to this disorder.
The resolution to these challenges lies in recognizing and embracing the incontrovertible truth that humanity is one. Ignorance of this truth — which embodies the very spirit of the age — is itself a form of oppression, for without it, it is impossible to build a truly just and peaceful world.
These evils will be eradicated only by a love that is translated into action — such actions as deliberately going out of our way to befriend all, appreciating the indispensable contributions of all, and joining hands with all in the creation of a new world. We believe in the fundamental goodness and decency of the masses of our fellow citizens. We are confident that Americans yearn as we do for spirituality, that they desire genuine justice and prosperity for everyone.
— The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States
“God will not change the condition of a people unless they change what is in their hearts.” (Quran 13:11)
To heal and change the conditions of social injustice and planetary degradation, we simply have to do the work of transforming the ego and opening up the heart.
In a recent panel on racism, the speaker informed us that, according to reliable official statistics, an African-American is being killed by state-sponsored violence every 28 hours. We were shocked.
The speaker proceeded to tell us that the real problem is that the African-American is being murdered a billion times a day. How, we asked? He explained that this was through our countless, unchecked biases, prejudices and stereotyping of the other.
To counter this injustice, legislation and education are critical. But even more essential, if we truly yearn for structural changes, is the need to overcome our conditioned biases through spiritual practices, by compassionate self-awareness, quieting our prejudices, and leaning into the suffering of others.
In the same vein, the wise have pointed out that our biggest environmental problems are not loss of biodiversity, climate change or ecosystem collapse. At their roots, the monumental environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy.
— Imam Jamal Rahman, co-founder and Muslim Sufi minister at Interfaith Community Sanctuary and adjunct faculty member at Seattle University
We join with many throughout this nation and around the world who are deeply saddened at recent evidence of racism and a blatant disregard for human life. We abhor the reality that some would deny others respect and the most basic of freedoms because of the color of his or her skin. We are also saddened when these assaults on human dignity lead to escalating violence and unrest. The Creator of us all calls on each of us to abandon attitudes of prejudice against any group of God’s children. Any of us who has prejudice toward another race needs to repent!
We need to foster a fundamental respect for the human dignity of every human soul, regardless of their color, creed or cause. And we need to work tirelessly to build bridges of understanding rather than creating walls of segregation.I plead with us to work together for peace, for mutual respect, and for an outpouring of love for all of God’s children.
— President Russell Nelson, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
I Can’t Breathe
I can’t breathe, the knee of oppression is on my neck.
I can’t breathe, the air of my city is filled with tear gas.
I can’t breathe, I am filled with rage and the smoke of burning buildings.
I can’t breathe because the air is filled with contempt for people of different colors.
I can’t breathe because my country is suffocating and the air of democracy is getting
I can’t breathe because I am grieving for America and praying its dreams aren’t dying in the streets of our nation tonight.
— Rabbi Lance Sussman, chair of the board of governors of Gratz College and senior rabbi of Reform congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, Pa.
We align ourselves with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd and countless others, and I just can’t believe what my eyes have seen.
— Bishop Mariann Budde, Episcopal bishop of Washington D.C.
May all members of our community with conscience, whether you be religious or not, stand firm in your active compassionate opposition to the virus of systemic racism, the virus of homophobia, the virus of xenophobia that discriminates against any member of our common humanity.
May you discover the courage, the wisdom, and the compassion to discover how you might be a humble force for goodin your home, in your community, in the nation, and within the planet. And, let us never forget to walk reverently upon this beautiful blue planet. For it is she that sustains each and every one of us!
— The Rev. Gard Jameson, chair, Interfaith Council of Southern Nevada