SEBC Statement on Trump Refugee Executive Order

It is a sad commentary on our political environment that some have chosen to start regressive discrimination toward immigrants which will likely increase their suffering and cause injury to us all. The implicit religious and ethnic discrimination built into the recent executive order on the immigration ban is deplorable, and repugnant to all Americans who value the best of our heritage of religious freedom and refuge to those fleeing religious and political persecution. We publicly endorse the reissued statement by the Interfaith Partners of South Carolina, and encourage those who wish to be more actively involved in resisting this effort to consider partnering with the Unitarian Universalist Church of Augusta, the Aiken Unitarian Universalist Church, or the local Religious Society of Friends who are likely sponsors of specific actions to counteract this. We also explicitly express our appreciation and continuing support for our local Muslim community which is likely to be targeted by those who feel empowered by the implicit religious and racial bigotry of the recent executive order.

References:

Unitarian Universalist Church of Augusta
Aiken Unitarian Universalist Church
Interfaith Partners of South Carolina

Commentary

As I’ve watched the “extreme vetting” executive order by Donald Trump evolve, I’ve thought about what my response both as an American citizen and Buddhist should be. I’ll attempt to stay clear of politics, and speak to what I think the religious issue is. In “Sitting Inside,” Kobai Scott Whitney states the difference between the normal golden rule and the Buddhist one comes down to understanding that in a real sense our neighbor, the other, is not just someone else we treat as we want to be treated, but that the other is us. We are not at all isolated from our environment, our culture, and the people we associate with, defend, and help. The belief that we are who we are without the context of culture, friends, enemies, etc. is a fundamental delusion about our own nature. Compassion grows in the soil of the deep understanding of our integral connection.

The executive order is a strong regressive step toward discriminating against people based on national origin, and specifically targets countries Muslims have emigrated from. Because immigrants are often already marginalized by skin color, language barriers, and  religious beliefs, they are easy targets for religious and racial bigots who feel the executive order empowers and supports their prejudice. In speaking with others from those communities, they already feel the pressure; they already feel anxious that some will feel its OK to harass and harm them with impunity.

Press Release – Interfaith Partners of South Carolina For Immediate Release
(Interfaith Partners Statement in .pdf form)

January 27, 2017

COLUMBIA–Anticipating today’s release of a presidential executive order which singles out Muslims* , Interfaith Partners of South Carolina has reissued its Religious Freedom Statement of December 2015. The statement affirms solidarity with Muslims in South Carolina and the U.S., calling for common respect, justice for everyone in our community, and standing together in uplifting our Constitution to ensure religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all.

We call out the executive order as simple Islamophobia, not a strategy which will ensure the safety of Americans or create peace in the world.

Interfaith Partners of South Carolina (IPSC) is a five-year-old statewide organization with representation from many religions, including Buddhist, Christian, Baha’i, Muslim, Unitarian Universalist, Jewish, Pagan, Native American Spirituality, Sikh religious representatives.

The mission of Interfaith Partners of South Carolina is to foster understanding and cooperation among the religious groups of the state through education, dialogue and collaborative projects, in order to assure that: all people are treated with dignity and respect; the religious freedom of all groups is protected; each religious group’s practices and teachings are given respectful consideration; and interfaith discussions will become conversation models that others will want to emulate.

For more information, contact Holli Emore,holli@sc.rr.comor803-798-8007, and visit www.interfaithpartnersofsc.org.

Religious Freedom Statement by Interfaith Partners of South Carolina

December 29, 2015

Interfaith Partners of South Carolina members are distressed and deeply saddened to hear so many of our country’s citizens and political leaders and candidates espouse retaliation to our Muslim colleagues, friends and neighbors for the actions of a small group who wrongly claim that Islam justifies their violence.

Muslims have lived peacefully in South Carolina for three centuries, but now the fear of extremists is feeding suspicion, fear, hostility, hateful speech, and demands for exaggerated scrutiny against an entire religious population. These actions would have been decried by any of our faith founders, as well as by the founders of our Democracy. Nor is such fear in keeping with the mission of Interfaith Partners.

Our Interfaith Partners members include many religions and spiritual paths, including Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Baha’i, Buddhist, Pagan, Native American, Unitarian Universalist, Jewish, and more. We work for harmonious communities through our interfaith activities because we understand the fragile bonds upon which our democracy is built. Peace in America depends upon the ability of diverse peoples to value diversity without perceiving those differences to be a threat.

Therefore, we welcome Syrian refugees fleeing death and destruction, just as this state has welcomed refugees and immigrants from around the world, beginning with the welcome extended by South Carolina’s original Native American inhabitants.

Furthermore, today Interfaith Partners joins the chorus of Muslim voices who have condemned the violence of Daesh, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and other extremist groups and individuals.

We offer our heartfelt condolences to all who have lost friends or loved ones in the violence.

We affirm our solidarity with our Muslim friends here in South Carolina, whom we have come to know as peaceful, community-minded, law-abiding citizens, and we abhor the vilification they and their religion now suffer in the rhetoric of political candidates and others who spew misinformation, hate and fear.

We rededicate ourselves as Interfaith Partners of South Carolina to the task of promoting interfaith harmony in our state and world, inviting all South Carolinians to join Interfaith Partners in promoting friendships across religious lines and in cultivating understanding and cooperation among the diverse faiths within our state.

We call now upon our elected and other leaders to demonstrate compassionate leadership.

Finally, we re-commit ourselves to uphold the human rights and freedoms of all members of our society, regardless of their religious belief or non-belief. We call for common respect, insist on justice for everyone in our community, and stand together in uplifting our Constitution to ensure religious liberty and freedom of conscience for all.

We look toward the hope and positive opportunities that the new year will bring, and we pray for the blessings of liberty to ourselves and to future generations, for the State of South Carolina, for our nation, and for the greater world community.

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We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this Land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition… In this enlightened Age and in this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States.”—Founding Father George Washington, letter to the members of the New Church in Baltimore, January 27, 1793)

 

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