By Bob Allen
A coalition of 15 civil-rights and faith-based nonprofits including the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, is launching a new project to foster dialogue about America’s religious diversity.
The “Know Your Neighbor” initiative, brainchild of Gurwin Singh Ahuja, a young Sikh man concerned about challenges in his own community, calls on all Americans both to share their own beliefs and to seek to understand and respect those of others.
BJC Executive Director Brent Walker, who has been working with the 14 other sponsors for several months, emphasized the need to move past stereotypes and look out for others’ well-being.
“Our religiously plural democracy and the religious freedom we enjoy depends not just on constitutional protection against governmental interference,” Walker said in a news release. “It also depends on the willingness of American citizens on a personal level to understand and respect each other, including our differences.”
Members of the coalition are scheduled to meet this afternoon in a White House convening on religious pluralism.
One goal of the coalition is to address the recent uptick in hateful rhetoric against religious minorities, which has led to increased discrimination, mistrust and violence.
“The rise in anti-Muslim sentiment has created a dangerous environment for all worshippers — not just Muslims,” said Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, a Muslim woman residing in New York whose community was recently threatened. “This reality is why a coordinated interfaith effort to address this hostility is necessary. Our global community must support and patronize these efforts and provide resources to further these relationships.”
The Know Your Neighbor coalition includes: ACLU, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Center for Inquiry, Hindu American Seva Communities, Interfaith Alliance, Interfaith Youth Core, Islamic Networks Group (ING), Muslim Advocates, National Council of Churches, National Sikh Campaign, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Religions for Peace USA, The Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign and Sikh Coalition.