Delegates approve last-minute resolution condemning violence committed in the name of religion
Delegates to the 216th Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Conference on June 13 approved a resolution entitled Resolution of Witness Condemning Violence Committed in the Name of Religion which was.drafted by the Ecumenism Task Team of the Conference and presented by the Justice and Witness Ministry Council.
In a letter to delegates prior to the meeting, Moderator Ian Holland and Vice Moderator Anne Cubbage had recommended that the Standing Rules of the meeting be temporarily suspended in order to take up the resolution, even though it had been submitted after the deadline for the meeting. They wrote:
"In this instance, we believe it to be in the interest of the Annual Meeting to consider this proposed resolution in the current year, concurrently with the proposed resolution titled 'A Call for the United Church of Christ to Take Action toward a Just Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.'"
"We believe there will be much interest among delegates in discussing the latter resolution. However, that resolution cannot be amended by this Annual Meeting, as it has already been submitted to the Business Committee of the National UCC General Synod. The proposed new resolution invites discussion of broader issues. We believe its inclusion would allow for a fuller conversation of matters that delegates are likely to want to discuss, and, being amendable, might allow more thorough and nuanced expression of delegates’ concerns," they wrote.
The delegates voted to suspend the rules to take up the resolution. The text as it was approved is as follows:
Resolution of Witness Condemning Violence Committed in the Name of Religion
Presented by the Justice and Witness Ministry Council on behalf of the Task Force on Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations of the Conference
We are deeply troubled by the rising tide of religious persecution both here in the United States and globally, and especially the acts carried out in the name of religion. As Christians, our faith calls us to condemn all acts of violence that cloak hatred in the language of religious conviction.
We affirm that Christian discipleship demands an active witness against such violence, in particular against the shameful acts done in the name of Christianity. In this current global environment, one that threatens to anesthetize and demoralize those of us who follow a crucified messiah, we confess the sin of our complicity in each moment we remain silent.
We acknowledge that the roots of religious violence cannot be fully understood in isolation from political, economic, and military forces that impact the world. Yet, as people of faith, we reject all attempts to justify violence as being divinely inspired or mandated. Such is a denial of the God-given value of each human life, and an act of sin that stands in direct opposition to faithful discipleship. We humbly acknowledge that Christians themselves have judged and persecuted people of other Christian traditions, of other faiths and of no faith to the point of extreme violence in the name of our beliefs and we have used our sacred texts to justify it. We repent of these misuses of our religious tradition.
Yet we also affirm that throughout history, Christians have engaged with each other and people of other faiths for real reconciliation and healing. We honor that the world’s noble faiths share core values of compassion, justice and peacemaking, and we recommit to right relationships among people of all religious traditions, calling each other to the best of our sacred teachings.
Therefore, we call upon ourselves and Christians everywhere to condemn acts of hate and violence done in the name of any of our sacred religions, and to actively engage with our faith partners: Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Baha’i, Unitarian Universalist and so many others to stand together against all acts of oppression done to anyone because of their faith.
Biblical and Theological Grounding
In the United Church of Christ, we hear God speaking to us throughout the Bible:
Jesus calls us to be peacemakers (Matt 5:9)
Peter declared, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to God.” (Acts 10:34-35)
Jesus calls us to respond to hatred with love: Matt 5:43-48 “ You have heard it said, ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you , Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matt 5:43,44)
Jesus tells us that the road to eternal life is won by these two great commands – to love God with all our hearts, soul, strength and mind and to love our neighbors as ourselves, and then calls us to an expanded vision of what it means to love our neighbor; (Luke 10:25-37)
As Christians, the gospel teachings of Jesus Christ especially call us to reject the complicity of silence in the face of injustice to any peoples, and to regularly engage with neighbor faith communities in public witness together modelling ecclesial faithfulness as an antidote to the escalating violence of our time.
Whereas we proclaim that the God we worship is the God of all Creation;
Whereas the Massachusetts Conference UCC and General Synod have persistently called upon our churches to act as reconcilers in solidarity with victims of religious persecution (MC 1981, 1985, 1987, 1988, 2003); and condemning actions of hostility against Islam and the Muslim Community (MC 2011) and grow in relationship with people of the Muslim faith (GS 1989); condemning anti-semitism in all its forms and affirming the Jewish faith (GS 1987, 2001, MC 2005); responding to hate with love (GS 1997), and standing with all people who teach compassion, justice, and peace (MC 2005, 2011);
Whereas there have been more than 150 hate crimes reported against Muslims and mosques around the United States since 9/11/2001 (the Southern Poverty Law Center); and attacks against 700 mosques in Great Britain since 9/11/2001 ( the Daily Mail); Three Muslim students were shot and killed at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in February 2015; hundreds of Muslims are fleeing persecution in Myanmar and Bangladesh May 2015;
Whereas there has been a global resurgence in anti-semitism, such as the killing of four people at a Jewish museum in Brussels, Belgium in May 2014, anti-semitic riots in Paris in July of 2014, killing of four Jews in a kosher grocery January 2015 in East Paris, France, and the killing of Jewish volunteer security guard outside a synagogue in Copenhagen, Denmark in February 2015;
Whereas the General Synod of the UCC has condemned the violence perpetuated in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict including but not limited to acts of suicide bombings by Palestinians and the use of force by the Israeli government in the sustained occupation of designated Palestinian territories (2005); and has called the churches to be active agents of peace in responding to the suffering of all peoples in the Middle East (1997, 2005, 2011) through interfaith relationship and dialogue, positive investment in healing projects working toward a just peace with dignity for all: Christians, Jews, Muslims, Druze, Baha’is and others in the Middle East; and the Massachusetts Conference UCC has called itself especially to these commitments (1981, 1985, 1988, 1989, 1996);
Whereas there have been increased attacks on Christian groups in Syria (hundreds kidnapped in February 2015, hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes, bombings and violence against their churches), executions of Ethiopian Christians in Libya April 2015, Christians attacked and fleeing by the thousands in northern Iraq April 2015;
Whereas there have been enough attacks against Hindu temples and groups in the United States since August 2014 that the US Justice Department has mandated the inclusion of anti-Hindu hate crimes as a category in crime-reporting forms starting in January 2015;
Whereas the UN reported increasing state-sponsored violence and discrimination against the Baha’i Community of Iran, including arrests and imprisonment.
Therefore, be it resolved that the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ:
Calls upon the churches and church members to condemn violence done in the name of Christianity, or the name of any religion, because it stands in direct opposition to the God made known to us in Jesus Christ;
Calls upon the churches and church members to pray for and support all Christian communities that are suffering persecution and violence, particularly Coptic, Syrian, Palestinian, Assyrian and Armenian Christians in the Middle East.
Calls upon the churches and church members specifically to reaffirm our condemnation of anti-Semitism and all its manifestations, foster collaborative relationships with local Jewish communities and stand as allies with Jewish people anywhere they are threatened or persecuted because of their faith;
Calls upon the churches and church members to condemn anti-Muslim bigotry and violence, in all its manifestations, to build relationships with local Muslim communities and work together on initiatives to promote understanding, collaborative good works, and peacemaking throughout the world;
Calls upon the churches and church members to condemn violence against Baha’is, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and other people of faith, as well as people of no faith. We invite greater engagement with local inter-religious dialogue and mission;
Calls upon the churches and church members to research and support programs of non-violent conflict resolution and reconciliation, especially among adversarial faith groups; develop just solutions for the living and working of all peoples in conflict regions, and forge peace-building initiatives.
Praises those of our churches which have engaged neighboring synagogues, mosques, churches and all communities of faith as ecumenical/interfaith allies for the good of the world, and urges all our churches to do so.
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