There is a reason we refer to our churches, temples, mosques, chapels as sacred space. They are earthly containers of the holy, homes for the deep bonds of human community, centers for setting aside the demands of modern life and settling into prayer or praise or petition. Beauty, awe, wonder, joy and sorrow all reside here. It is to these sacred spaces we bring our children to be blessed, it is in these spaces we celebrate milestones of a human lifetime, it is in these spaces that we mourn our dead.
This time of year, many people will enter their sacred spaces for festivals and holidays. They will go to celebrate miracles, to seek the light, to mark the birth of a Prince of Peace.
A Prince of Peace.
There is one community among our many diverse communities that has had their peace disrupted, their sacred space profaned, their otherwise peaceful community desecrated. There is one community among us who enters this season of light and joy and peace under the shadow of what I can only think of as an act of violence.
On Tuesday evening, when the community of the Islamic Outreach Center in Cypress arrived for worship, they were greeted by a slaughtered pig-a clear symbol for a Muslim of intolerance and prejudice.
Prince of Peace, indeed.
My faith (and indeed, my civics class) teaches me that all are free to seek God in his or her own way, or not at all. My faith (and indeed, my government) recognizes Islam as a long and noble tradition that contains a great deal of wisdom, beauty and hope for many people all over the world. My faith (and indeed, my Bible), entreats me to speak out when injustice is done, and to stand with my neighbor in love. To that end, I and dozens of others offer the following in support of the community of the Islamic Outreach Center, and to let the city of Houston know in no uncertain terms that intolerance and prejudice will not win:
To the members of the Islamic Outreach Center in Cypress, and to the Greater Houston Area:
We, the undersigned religious leaders of the Houston area wish to express to you our sorrow at the recent gesture of bigotry inflicted upon your community. We can only imagine how your hearts must feel when you arrive to worship peacefully, and instead find a blatant symbol of prejudice, unwelcome and intolerance on your very doorstep.
As people of many faiths, we believe that this kind of hatred and intolerance of any faith has no place in our city. A community of faith is a sacred community, deserving of the respect of all people no matter what their values or beliefs may be. In particular, we are dismayed that still, our Muslim sisters and brothers are unfair targets of prejudice born of misplaced fear, ignorance and narrowmindedness.
Know that you do not stand against such intolerance alone. We stand with you in solidarity and in defiance of hatred and intolerance. We stand with you in your right to worship peacefully without persecution. We stand with you as brothers and sisters who seek to live lives of peace, connectedness, service and love, recognizing that this city is not diminished by our diverse faith communities, but is strengthened by it.
In this season of holidays and light, of gifts and merry-making, of traditions which speak of miracles and a Prince of Peace, may this shadow of violence be lifted from your doorstep so that you may once again gather together peacefully before Allah, without doubt or fear. In whatever ways we may be of support, please know we will be. In the words of 16th Century Unitarian minister Francis David: We need not think alike to love alike.
1. Rev. Ellen Cooper-Davis, Minister, Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Church, The Woodlands 2. Rev. Lura Groen, Pastor, Grace Ev. Lutheran Church, Houston 3. Rev. Ginny Brown-Daniel, Minister, Plymouth United Church of Christ, Spring 4. Lauren Santerre, Director of Interfaith Relations, Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, Houston 5. Elliot Gershenson, President and CEO, Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, Houston 6. Ryan Hoffland, Interfaith Relations Youth Coordinator, Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, Houston 7. Marty Troyer, Pastor, Houston Mennonite Church, Houston 8. Rev. Jim Herrington, Pastor, Harbor Church, Houston 9. Jan M. Brahms, Rabbi, Congregation Beth Shalom, The Woodlands 10. Rev. Don Gebert, Founding Executive Director, Interfaith of The Woodlands, The Woodlands 11. Barbara H. Gebert 12. Karyl Paige, Founding Member, Asimov Humanists of Montgomery County, The Woodlands 13. Rev. Glynden Bode 14. Pastor Joel Goza, Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, Houston 15. Rev. Becky Edmiston-Lange, Co-Minister, Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church, Houston 16. Rev. Mark Edmiston-Lange, Co-Minister, Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church, Houston 17. Rev. Lisa Beth White, Associate Pastor, Faith United Methodist Church, Spring 18. Rev. Kevin Copeland, Conroe 19. Pastor David A. Roschke, Pastor, Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, Houston 20. Rev. Jenni Martin Fairbanks, Pastor, Zeteo Worship Community, Houston 21. Rev. Lorin Darst, Pastor, Grace Lutheran Church, Conroe 22. Pastor Chris Seay, Pastor, Ecclesia, Houston 23. Rev. Paul Beedle, Spring 24. Rev. Kathleen Ellis, Assistant Minister, First Unitarian Universalist Church, Houston 25. Mary Lee Tilson, Member, Spring Interfaith Dialogue Council, Spring 26. Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford, Minister, First UU Church-Copperfield, Houston 27. Jean Thomas, Member, Spring Interfaith Dialogue Council, Spring 28. Dr. Leonard Hoffman, Board Member and Co-chair of Interfaith Relations Task Force, Interfaith Ministries of Houston, Houston 29. Rev. Jimmy Abbott, Rector, Holy Comforter Church, Spring 30. Rev. Sean Steele, 31. Mike Cole, General Presbyter, Presbytery of the New Covenant, Houston 32. Rev. Tracey Breashears Schultz, Pastor, Zion Lutheran Church, Houston Heights 33. Rev. Helen P. Deleon, Pastor, Webster Presbyterian Church, Webster 34. Rev. Ken Richter, Senior Minister, First Congregational Church, Houston 35. Mohammed Zafarullah, Imam, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Houston 36. Rev. Kristen Klein-Cechettini, Director of Life Development, Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church, Houston 37. Rev. Janice Ladd, Executive Pastor, Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church, Houston 38. Rev. Dr. Michael Diaz, Director of Connections, Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church, Houston 39. Mark Eggleston, Director of Outreach, Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church, Houston 40. Rev. Bruce Frogge, Pastor, Cypress Creek Christian Church, Spring 41. Bishop Michael Rinehart, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 42. Rev. Bob Tucker, The Foundation for Contemporary Theology, Houston 43. Rev. Chris Markert, Pastor, Celebration Lutheran Church, Cypress 44. Rev. Sean P. Horrigan, Pastor, Christ the Redeemer Catholic Church, Cypress 45. Patricia Gibbons, Team Leader for Mission Focus, Hosanna Lutheran Church, Houston 46. Nancy Agafitei, Interfaith Womenâ€™s Discussion Leader, Hosanna Lutheran Church, Houston 47. Rev. Daniel Oâ€™Connell, Minister, First Unitarian Universalist Church, Houston 48. Rev. Bonnie Vegiard, Minister, First UU Church â€“ Stafford, Stafford 49. Rev. David F. Jones, Pastor, The Woodlands Community Presbyterian Church, The Woodlands 50. Rev. Leonora Montgomery, Minister Emerita, Bay Area UU Church, Clear Lake