Don't let hatred of other religions become normalized

April 20, 2017
Peace, Not Vandalism
Stephanie Matthews, left, of Fort Collins First UMC, and her friend, Merall, of the Islamic Center of Fort Collins, were among the 1,000 people who rallied to support the Islamic Center on March 27.
Submitted by David W. Reid
Director of Adult Faith Formation and Northern Colorado Faith Library
First United Methodist Church, Fort Collins, Colorado

This is a condensed version of a devotional given at the Church Council meeting at Fort Collins First United Methodist Church on March 28.
I recently participated on a panel at the Islamic Center of Fort Collins. The topic: How can religious communities help assure the security of minorities? Two weeks later, a vandal struck the mosque.

I am no security expert but offer this response: Do not allow hatred of religious minorities to be normalized.

First United Methodist Church has taken measures to oppose normalization of prejudice. We sponsored annual interfaith presentations after Sept. 11, 2001. Adult and youth groups hosted Muslims. We co-sponsored an Israeli-Palestinian peace dialog and were represented at a rally to support Middle East immigrants. We added books and DVDs by and about Muslims to our library.

But anti-Muslim comments have been heard in our building. Fortunately, people have spoken up against those who mischaracterize other religions. Such objections must occur if we are to be exemplars of Christianity.

When a member told a Sunday class that Islam threatens the United States, his presentation was full of mis-statements. The group denounced his position. That same class invited a young immigrant from Pakistan to speak the next week. This man’s life had been threatened when he evangelized for Christianity in a mostly Muslim country. But he holds no hatred for Islam. When asked what problems might occur with two Muslims serving in Congress, his response was unwavering: It is no problem at all, he said. These are good, honest people. This is America where people have freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Our congregation is representative of churchgoers across America. We can hold different opinions. But we also have an obligation to stand up against stereotypes and reject ideas that have no basis in fact. This is crucial to keep minorities safe and for us to live out our faith.