Over the past year, across the country, there has been a deeply troubling upsurge in expressions of bigotry and intolerance against immigrants, and acts of Antisemitism and Islamophobia. We offer resources here for individuals and churches who are interested in deepening their engagement on these issues, seeking to offer support to our Jewish and Muslim neighbors, addressing the Christian roots of Antisemitism and Islamophobia, and engaging in dialogue and joint efforts with Ecumenical and Interfaith community partners to build on respect for people of all faiths and traditions.
You may wish to begin by reading this RESOLUTION passed by the 28th General Synod (2011) of the United Church of Christ: On Actions of Hostility Against Islam and the Muslim Community.
RESOLUTION presented by the MACUCC Justice and Witness Ministry Council on behalf of the Task Team on Interfaith Action and Ecumenism passed at the 2015 Annual Meeting: Resolution of Witness Condemning Violence Committed in the Name of Religion.
An Interfaith RITUAL
MUSIC and POETRY
Beyond the Eleventh www.beyondthe11th.org
Founded by two women in the Boston area who lost their husbands on 9/11, Beyond the 11th is a non-profit organization that provides support to widows in Afghanistan who have been afflicted by war, terrorism, and oppression.
An award-winning documentary about Susan Retik and Patti Quigley, founders of Beyond the 11th, which provides job training and economic opportunity to Afghan widows. Retik and Quigley founded the non-profit as a response to losing their husbands on September 11th. The film challenges us to consider what it means to live in a complex, global community at the beginning of the 21st century. Available to rent or buy on the Website. https://www.beyondthe11th.org/beyond-belief
A multiple award-wining documentary about a grassroots non-violent campaign, organized to resist the building of the security fence through the olive groves of a Palestinian village in the West Bank. Balanced and fair to all sides, it serves as an excellent case study of non-violence in action. – http://www.justvision.org/budrus
A documentary by Oren Jacoby detailing the history of Jewish-Christian relations, as examined through the lens of James Carroll’s spiritual journey. This is a beautifully crafted and important film which thoughtfully looks at the legacy of anti-Jewish attitudes in Christianity, and the importance of facing this sobering history, based on James Carroll’s book of the same title. Available through YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon.
This film follows several Israelis and Palestinians who are working together for dialogue and reconciliation, including the leaders of the Parents Forum, which connects families who have lost loved ones to violence. An excellent documentary and very moving. http://www.justvision.org/encounterpoint
A Force More Powerful
This film narrated by Ben Kingsley highlights the role of non-violent movements in changing the world in the 20th century. The film examines Gandhi’s work and the Civil Rights Movement, among others. There is a good study guide to go with the film, and website has excellent resources. www.aforcemorepowerful.org/films/index.php
The Good Lie
A powerful and moving narrative feature film based on actual stories. It follows the lives of several “Lost Boys” of Sudan, as they struggle to make a new life in the United States after arriving as refugees. The Sudanese actors convey the courage and resiliency of the young men, who survived the horrors of war only to find themselves facing new challenges as they adjust to life in the American Midwest. Reese Witherspoon plays a well-meaning but somewhat naive counselor. Available through Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, and Google Play.
Hotel Rwanda (2004)
Based on the inspiring story of Paul Rusesabagina, who saved the lives of a thousand Tutsis during the genocide. (Difficult to watch at points, so not for all ages, and while a very well-made film, its version of events is far from universally accepted.) Available through Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, etc.
The Imam and the Pastor
An inspiring true story about reconciliation and peace. The film tells the story of Pastor James Wuye and Imam Mohammad Ashafa of Nigeria, who were members of opposing militia until they experienced spiritual and personal transformation, and developed a friendship based on forgiveness and trust. Together they founded the Inter-Faith Mediation Centre, risking their lives to bring Muslims and Christians in Nigeria together.
The Lemon Tree (2008)
A 2008 Israeli drama which is a parable about the border told through the story of a Palestinian woman who owns a lemon tree grove next door to a house where an Israeli Defense Minister moves. Available through Amazon and iTunes.
Remember the Titans (2000)
Based on a true story, this film tells the story of the struggle to integrate a football team in the South.
Pray the Devil Back to Hell
This lively documentary tells the story of Christian and Muslim women in Liberia who come together to demand an end to the civil war, risking their lives and overcoming religious divides. The film features Leymah Gbowee, the winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, and speaks to the impact that women of faith can make in their own communities as peacemakers and change agents. http://praythedevilbacktohell.com
This documentary was made by an Israeli journalist, Shlomi Eldar, and tells the story of a Palestinian family from Gaza with a gravely ill infant and the ways in which figures on both side of the border experience trying to save this precious child. Available through Amazon.
Soldiers of Peace - (2008)
The stories of peacemakers in 14 countries around the world, narrated by Michael Douglas. Soldiers of Peace showcases the alternatives to conflict, revealing countless inspiring examples to prove that peace can be achieved through great equity, emanci-pation, tolerance and understanding. Only available as a DVD to buy from Amazon.
Waking in Oak Creek
A 34 minute documentary about forgiveness and a community’s response to hatred and violence. Filmed in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, after a white supremacist shot and killed 6 worshipers at the local Sikh temple, it follows the families of victims, Sikh community members, police, the mayor, and members of the wider community, as they come together to find healing, confront hatred, and better understand one another. Available to be watched for free either online or a DVD, with a kit provided to help plan screenings: https://www.niot.org/cops/wakinginoakcreek
Understandings from Judaism on Christianity, Jesus, and the Jewish Context of the New Testament
The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewishness of Jesus, Amy-Jill Levine
The Historical Jesus in Context, editors: Amy-Jill Levine, Dale C. Allison, John Dominic Crossan
The Jewish Annotated New Testament eds. Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Z. Brettler
Irreconcilable Differences? A Learning Resource for Jews and Christians, David Sandmel, Rosann M. Catalano, Christopher M. Leighton
Christianity In Jewish Terms, Tikva Frymer-Kensky, et al.
Has God Only One Blessings? Judaism As a Source of Christian Self-Understanding, Mary C. Boys
Seeing Judaism Anew: Christianity’s Sacred Obligation, ed. Mary C. Boys
Christian and Jews in Dialogue: Learning in the Presence of the Other, Mary C. Boys
The New Testament: Methods and Meanings, Amy-Jill Levine and Warren Carter
Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of A Jewish Rabbi, Amy-Jill Levine
Preaching without Contempt: Overcoming Unintended Anti-Judaism, Marilyn Salmon
Preaching the Gospels without Blaming the Jews, Ronald J. Allen and Clark M. Williamson
1) Isaiah 58:9a -12 “If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; and you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in."
2) Genesis 21:1-20 The story of Abraham sending Hagar and Ishmael away – God tells Abraham and Hagar that God will be with Ishmael and make of him a great nation, and another great nation down through Isaac.
This is a critical text of our kinship with Islam and Judaism as Christians – for Muslims understand their lineage to come from Abraham through Ishmael, just as Jews and Christians understand their lineage to come from Abraham through Isaac.
3) Genesis 18:1-16 God comes to Abraham as 3 travelers on the road. It is Abraham’s generous hospitality to the strangers that leads to God’s blessing through the future birth of Isaac.
“A Human being is a part of the whole that we call the universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness. This illusion is a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desire and to affection for only the few people nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living beings and the whole nature in its beauty.” – Albert Einstein, 1954 (Letter of 1950, as quoted in The New York Times (29 March 1972) and The New York Post (28 November 1972).
These are prayers that have been written by others over issues of war or assassination, loving the enemy and more. Try and adapt them or find inspiration in them for whatever the time and story you are meeting in your church.
A Collection of Prayers For Peace, Decade to Overcome Violence, World Council of Churches:
Prayers for Peace and Healing – World Prayers Project
The Peace Seeds: Twelve Interfaith Prayers for Peace
Worship resources for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Greymoor Ecumenical and
Save us from weak resignation to violence.
Teach us that restraint is the highest expression of power,
that thoughtfulness and tenderness are marks of the strong.
Help us to love our enemies
not by countenancing their sins,
but by remembering our own.
And may we never for a moment forget
that they are fed by the same food,
hurt by the same weapons,
have children for whom they have the same high hopes as we do.
Grant us the ability
to find joy and strength not in the strident call to arms,
but to grasp our fellow creatures in the striving for justice and truth.*
* prepared by a Christian, a Jew and a Muslim, August 1990. In A Collection of Prayers for Peace, 2005
Posted on the Decade to Overcome Violence website of the World Council of Churches
An Opening Prayer
O Holy One, You are the One from whom all life has come to be; You call to us from every part of your Creation - you who have loved us from before the first human ever walked this Earth. Whether we are standing boldly in the sunshine this morning because our hearts are glad, or waiting empty in the snowy shadows with our grief; whether anger smolders in our hearts like glowing ash, or doubt eats away at us like a frosty winter wind; You call to us with Your eternal message of love – it has always been You that we have desired, for nothing else on this earth can satisfy our hunger except for You.
The world around us is full of violence and pain, doubt and mistrust- You know this intimately with us, remembering the cross. We are afraid of those we don’t know, those who don’t look like us, or think like us, or worship like us. Yet today you ask us to love them with greater hearts than we can imagine. Help us to believe what you tell us, Adonai, that you will give us everything we need.
Have clear glass bowls on the central table in a circle, one for each faith present, with a tall clear glass vase in the middle. Each shall have glass stones inside all of one color (e.g. one bowl all blue glass stones, one bowl all red glass stones, etc.) Ask a person from each faith to step forward, one at a time, and say a prayer of longing, or unity, or peace, or reconciliation that is sacred to their faith (or them), and then they shall pour their faith’s glass stones into the one common tall glass vase.
At the end, all the stones will be mixed, a sign of a way to live together in peace – distinct yet united, all beautiful, creating rainbow. All stand in a circle around the bowls, and say together a prayer of peace.
We Cannot Own the Sunlit Sky by Ruth Duck, set to Endless Song by Robert Lowry
#563 in the New Century Hymnal
This is My Song Words by Lloyd Stone, set to Finlandia by Jean Sibelius
#591 in the New Century Hymnal
A poem written on Star Island upon learning of the attacks, by Steven Ratiner, literary coordinator of the All Souls Project http://www.wbur.org/2011/09/05/sept-11-star-island
The Task Force for Interfaith Action and Ecumenism has put together a useful six page resource engaging in dialogue that includes:
Page 1 - Why engage in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue?
Page 2 - Covenant for conversations and presentations in an interfaith setting
Page 3 - Ten things to keep in mind when participating in dialogue
Page 4 - Some key principles for engaging in difficult conversations
Page 5 - Practical tools for having faithful conversations with ecumenical/interfaith partners
Page 6 - Suggested reading for engaging in dialogue
UCC Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations
Massachusetts Council of Churches
National Council of Churches, USA
World Council of Churches
Church World Service
Ecumenical News International