jefferson longshotWritten by Don Byrd

The last several weeks have been anxious ones for America. Acts of mass violence in California and Paris have increased the number of Americans who don’t feel safe. They have also brought out some of the worst in those who would blame all of Islam for these crimes, or hold under suspicion and surveillance all American Muslims.

So, what are people of faith to do in this climate of religious fracture and mistrust? How should Christians respond to the scapegoating of Islam? Of course, one way is to insist our elected leaders resist the temptation to enact discriminatory policies or use rhetoric that further divides us along religious lines. But it seems equally important to address the underlying religious divides that have been so easily exploited. 

The United States is one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world, but few Americans know much about any faith other than their own. That leaves many of us vulnerable to misinformation and fear. Recently, we have seen all too well the results in the form of increased anti-Muslim rhetoric and even attacks on Muslim-Americans and other religious minorities.

Has it ever been more important to develop interfaith dialogue and cultivate true interfaith community than now? If we seek honest relationships and earnest communication across religious lines, mistrust will come less easily, fear will face sturdier resistance, and misinformation will find fewer takers.  

Over the past few months, the Baptist Joint Committee has been working with 14 other organizations to explore how we can foster a nationwide dialogue on our country’s religious diversity. The coalition is working together on the “Know Your Neighbor” project, calling on everyone to not only share their own beliefs but also to understand and respect the beliefs of others. In just a few days, there will be details available on the project and how you can participate.

Stay tuned.