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Fighting polarization and prejudice requires courageous, empathetic communities

In culturally and politically tense times, I don’t pretend bringing a diverse group of people together is easy.

I am appalled at comedians, artists, politicians and even spiritual leaders who have brought antisemitism, Islamophobia and homophobia, and white supremacy to the mainstream.

With the chaos and uncertainty we’ve lived through the last three years, it’s hard work, and it’s exhausting.

Dehumanizing people is the prelude to killing them. The recent mass shooting in Colorado Springs happens when you make marginalized communities a public enemy through policies aimed at erasure and banning books that humanize, affirm and teach.

We are angry. We are broken. The saddest of all, we aren’t shocked. Hate speech leads to hate crimes. We must interrupt the pattern.

It is time to join together to learn, build relationships and act in solidarity so that widespread polarization and racial and religious prejudice no longer undermine our democracy or fracture our families.

Seventeen years into an audacious experiment in interfaith collaboration, I am confident that people with different beliefs and identities can co-exist when love triumphs over hate.

We must protect ourselves against radical extremists. When one community is threatened, none of us are safe.

When we stand together, we can co-create a respectful, pluralistic society.

Far too many of us lack the skills, the opportunity and even the inclination to work together across lines of difference toward a common goal.

Learning is essential.

It’s time to learn about religious diversity, equity, and inclusion through historical, cultural, and structural analyses of privilege and marginalization and relate these teachings to navigating the intricacies of life. 

It’s time to build deep, meaningful relationships with colleagues, friends, family, and community leaders who relate to religion differently. 

Sometimes it’s uncomfortable and inconvenient.

When we ask someone how they came to their belief, in hearing their story, they become human. And we have fewer opportunities to be afraid and more opportunities for hope.

It is time to show you care and affirm your relationships.

It’s time to stand together in solidarity with underrepresented and marginalized communities.

We will heal our community by calling out threats and injustices.

Are you prepared to call out the antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, or micro-aggressions you may see in casual banter among friends?

Are you prepared to call in those who disagree?

Are you willing to engage in dialogue and understand the power of bridge building?

It’s time to coalition-build multi-racial, multi-faith coalitions to counter the engine of hate and advocate for freedom of thought and belief, human rights, and immigrants’ rights.

This effort relies on the understanding that each individual has both something to teach and something to learn from others.

Being a bridge builder is about having the courage to start a journey that will unveil myths, truths, and lies about the world as we know it.

We can do this together.

Democracy only works when we trust that all of us are willing to listen, learn and be moved.

I am motivated to live in a community that is rich in colors and cultures. We are forging a coalition.

We are brave enough to own the conditions that led to systemic injustice.

We will talk about the danger of white supremacy.

We will connect with, offer support and uplift the stories of our neighbors.

We will not be afraid to discuss tough stuff and embrace imperfection.

We work for people-centered change.

We respect each unique individual and each irreplaceable relationship. And we don’t take trust for granted.

We cultivate it one person, one relationship, at a time.

We don’t treat people how we want to be treated. We treat people how they want to be treated.

We collaborate intentionally and courageously, modeling an inclusive society where differences are celebrated, and commonalities are built upon.

We will co-exist in an ecosystem where we authentically value each other, listen deeply, lead with curiosity, seek to understand, and treat everyone with respect.

We will help people gain the skills to have civil and even productive conversations about not only religion but also politics and other issues that can be divisive or taboo.

We are called to create an environment supportive and brave enough that people are willing to share their genius but confrontational enough to improve ideas and spark new thinking.

It is time to show public solidarity.

I suggest you go to a Shabbat service or Jumah prayer or visit a Black church or Taste of Tri-Faith — even if it is your first time doing so.

Call in people who may need to learn more and have inadvertently engaged in harmful tropes.

Counter the forces working to prevent an honest accounting of history and advocate for projects promoting public memory to take place.

State legislatures across the country are attempting to prevent schools from teaching the history that explains why our country looks the way it does.

School boards are banning books that provide historical perspectives students might not otherwise encounter.

Let your representatives know this is not acceptable in Nebraska.

Preach, teach, advocate and write letters to the editor to amplify our coalition.

Invite a friend or colleague to join us.

Let’s walk through life together and be the beacon of hope that the world desperately needs. 

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