Tagged: “Interfaith”

Student Tech Connect

Your money is needed to further Student Tech Connect. Student Tech Connect has successfully helped financially underprivileged students connect online with their teachers and classrooms. Still, many more students need help. Beaufort county, on the coast of South Carolina, is a wealthy county. There are a string of counties along the I95 corridor known as the corridor of shame due to long term chronic underfunding of their school districts. Students in these districts are in dire need.

The youth of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Lowcountry (UUCL) realized the impact that the coronavirus had on classmates who don’t have access to their online teachers and classes. Members of the UUCL’s Social Action committee were concerned about the pandemic’s pandemic’s growing disparity of educational opportunity. So the two committees joined forces to become the Religious Education Social Justice committee (RESJ). Although many synergies were discovered in the combined committees, we quickly realized the problem’s size and complexity meant we would need partners.

The RESJ joined forces with the Martin Luther King committee for Justice to add their weight to Student Tech Connect, a program to help financially underprivileged students connect online with their teachers and classrooms and improve their learning experience. The partnering by itself was a huge success, with nearly 10% of our congregants newly serving on MLK committees and establishing working relationships.

The next step in the process was to identify the underprivileged students and what they need to connect with their teachers and classrooms. Obviously, we don’t know which students were underprivileged, but the school district has that information. So we partnered with the school district and its Superintendant, Dr. Frank Rodriguez. Dr. Rodriguez had already negotiated a very favorable discount for internet connectivity for needy students.

Student Tech Connect has been so successful that we now have several funding sources so we have partnered with the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry. The Community Foundation disperses funds to the school district to purchase hardware and pay rental fees. The Foundation also disbursed funds to the internet service provider. The Foundation also has established donors that Student Tech Connect will be able to access.

Our partnerships with the MLK committee, the school district, and the Community Foundation have greatly increased UUCL’s incarnational growth. We are becoming much better known in the community for our justice work.

Nashua Host Home Network

STRETCH GOAL ADDED! SEE DETAILS BELOW

Help Inna stay in the US and escape persecution

Inna is from Cameroon and has been in the US since 2015. She is currently in deportation proceedings and is seeking asylum.

In Cameroon, a local chief asked Inna to marry him. He already had more than ten wives and many children. Inna refused. As a result of her refusal she was subsequently the victim of physical assaults by masked men, loyal to the chief. During one of the assaults, masked men threatened to rape her daughter.  In 2015, Inna fled to the US.

In the US, she earned a Certificate as a Nursing Assistant in September 2016 and started to work in an assisted living community. She also volunteered at a nonprofit that runs a food pantry and secondhand store. In 2018 she began paralegal studies at Mount Wachusett Community College. In 2019, due to being misadvised regarding her deportation case, she did not attend a court hearing.

ICE detained her at the border, and put her in jail, where she spent the next 7 months.

A coalition of local New Hampshire immigration support groups and faith organizations, including UU Action NH, The NH Conference United Church of Christ, the American Friends Service Committee, and Never Again Action, are supporting Inna. They helped pay her bond. A local family invited her into their home, where she is now staying. Inna hopes to get a work permit, finish her paralegal studies, win asylum, become a US permanent resident and eventually become a US citizen. She also wants to bring her daughter to the US.

After her experience with incarceration, she also wants to devote herself to helping people in jail. But to accomplish her goals, she needs to resume her asylum case, and eventually win.

Inna’s legal fees will exceed $10,000. Local donors have stepped up with over $3000 already, but more is necessary in order to restart and complete her asylum case. Inna needs your help. We are compelled by our faith in peace, liberty, and justice for ALL, to support asylum seekers like Inna. Anything you can give would help greatly. Any money raised that goes beyond Inna’s needs will support other asylum seekers in New Hampshire.

Saving Split Rock

Stretch Goal Added- See details below

Near and dear to the Ramapough Lenape Indian Nation is their sacred site of Split Rock or Tahetaway, which means The Gate that Opens. It is considered a power point for gaining wisdom and understanding. Ancestors would meet there and powwow out their decisions.

This ancient rock formation is central to a series of giant turtle formations, which line up and are just off summer sunrise solstice. The stones had been shaped, modified and put into position. There are two astronomical alignments still functioning. According to anthropologist David Johnson from Poughkeepsie this site qualifies for a national historic preservation.

Relatives from the Andes have implored the Ramapough to reactivate this portal for the healing of the people and Mother Earth. In keeping with their indigenous traditions, on June 20, 2020, a sunrise ceremony was held at Split Rock with Unity Earth to begin reactivating this sacred site.  Unity Earth is traveling around the globe, engaging with Indigenous nations and peoples for the healing of human kind and Mother Earth.

Our goal is to support the reactivation of this sacred site. Plans are for a large ceremonial tipi to be erected at the site for hosting ceremonies. This will allow relatives from the global community to visit and offer prayers and blessings. The cost of the tipi is $3,000.00.

At this year’s UUA General Assembly, an Action of Immediate Witness, “400 Years of White Supremacist Colonialism” addresses the white colonial settler history and effects on Indigenous nations and people’s. Excerpt:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that we, the delegates of the 2020 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association, call upon the Unitarian Universalist Association and its member congregations to:

Continue to gather in solidarity with the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, Standing Rock nation, and all Indigenous peoples struggling to preserve their lands, waters, peoples, sacred sites, and sovereignty.

Continue to push for release of Indigenous Water Protectors from prisons, end public policies that criminalize resistance to extractive colonialism, and adopt a vision of prison abolition.

Work nationally, statewide, and locally on public policy that is decolonizing – such as establishing Indigenous Peoples Day, including Indigenous peoples’ histories in public education curricula, and eliminating racist monuments, flags, and mascots.

Work to stop and reverse ecological harm in genuine collaboration with and taking leadership from communities most consistently and harshly impacted by extractive exploitation of land, water, air, and all beings.

Research, identify, and acknowledge the Indigenous peoples historically and/or currently connected with the land occupied by congregations, and find ways to act in solidarity with or even partner with those Indigenous peoples.

Examine practices relative to Indigenous people’s histories, cultures, spiritual traditions, and rights must be respected. Unitarians and Universalists seek to be more inclusive and accountable.

This is a new project in support of the Ramapough Lenape Indian Nation, honoring their culture and traditions, working towards saving their sacred site. As Unitarian Universalists, we are called to work with communities marginalized by our society. Our call to justice, particularly in 2020 with the anniversary of the Mayflower landing, asks of us to support Indigenous Nations which have suffered great harm from the time of first contact through to today. Our Anti- Racism work must go further than our own congregations to support the call of Native Nations as they protect their sacred sites and work to renew Mother Earth. This is our present work in the UUA, and my ministry serves to support this; our Associations progressive stance is aligned with creating a world community.


We are also aligned with efforts to heal the environment due to the climate crisis. This goal and the spiritual practices of the Ramapough Lenape are intrinsic to the goal of healing Mother Earth for seven generations into the future. We are grateful to the Unitarian Universalist Association for providing this platform for us to fund raise.

For more information on the Ramapough Lenape, view #612, On Demand video from 2020 General Assembly. Also view American Native or Mann v. Ford, both on Amazon Prime. Anushiik! (Thank You!)

One New Mexico Gospel Choir/Challenge Grant

Stretch Goal Added!  See details below.

Kelontae Gavin joins our final rehearsal!

In collaboration with New Mexico Black History Organizing Committee, First Unitarian applied for and received a grant from the UU Fund for Social Responsibility, to support this year’s production of the One New Mexico Gospel Choir concert featuring guest artist Kelontae Gavin. The concert draws singers from over a dozen churches in Albuquerque, including several predominantly Black churches. All leaders in the project are African American musicians with deep grounding in historical and contemporary gospel music. The goal is to come together as a community and forge ongoing relationships, through the power of Black gospel music. For white musicians who participate, it is an opportunity to learn about and honor the history of Black gospel music. The project culminates in a free concert that attracts an audience from all over the city, part of Albuquerque’s Black History Month Festival.

Our grant and matching grant money will cover concert expenses, for example: hall rental, band musicians, fee and travel expenses for our guest artist.

Sanctuary Travel Fund

The Cambridge Interfaith Sanctuary Coalition (CISC) is a small group of Cambridge, Boston, and area congregations walking the journey with people facing deportation and unjust laws. 

CISC is committed to following the lead of people who are facing the greatest risks, while honoring their strength and resilience. CISC currently helps to support a woman (and her two children) who fears for her life if deported to her country of origin.

As part of our sanctuary efforts, there is an urgent, repeated, and ongoing need for funds to support the team of people who accompanies our guest to her out-of-state court hearings, and other important sanctuary journeys. This Faithify campaign will help off-set the cost of this vital travel, including food, airfare, and ground transportation. 

Supporting the travel fund helps us continue doing what we do. Thank you for being part of our sanctuary efforts.

Please don’t share this link through social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) or your congregation’s website.

Muslim-Jewish Dialogue: Jerusalem-Hebron Religious Leaders Forum

The organizers

The project is co-coordinated and co-sponsored by the International Association for Religious Freedom and the Interfaith Encounter Association, one of its Middle Eastern member groups. The IARF, established at the beginning of the 20th century by Unitarians and European Free Christians, has since developed into a truly interfaith platform of exchange and collaboration between religious liberals of different faiths, represented at the UN and involved in a variety of projects in such diverse regions as Japan, Pakistan, India, Kenya, the Middle East, Europe and North America. These projects focus on interfaith dialogue and peace building initiatives, both local and intercontinental (such as our quadrennial Congresses), as well as human rights education and advocacy at national and international levels.

We are particularly proud of and excited about this cooperation with the Interfaith Encounter Association, our long-standing member in the Middle East. We have been greatly impressed by the passion and dedication of the local volunteers and have been supporting them as best we could since 2011. Still, their dreams and the needs in the region are far greater than our means, especially now that they lost an important funding source from the US when the Trump Administration terminated support of any such groups, which they previously enjoyed through a number of programmes.

Please consider supporting us in our strife to counter hostility and ignorance. You may read about the project below, at our website (iarf.net/projects/israel) and at the website of the IEA (interfaith-encounter.org).

The project

The purpose of the Jerusalem-Hebron Religious Leaders Forum is to create a uniquely effective path toward harmonious co-existence. The main Forum continuously recruits leading community religious leaders (Rabbis of synagogues and villages, heads and teachers in Yeshivot, Imams in mosques, community Sheikhs and others).

Currently the Forum consists of several Heads and teachers of Yeshivot, Chief Rabbi of the town of Efrat and several Salafi Sheikhs from Hebron and Yata. They are consistently exposed to each other’s teachings and practices through regular encounters of joint study and open conversation, while emphasizing mutual respect and sincere desire for understanding. The process leads them to get to know each other better and better, gain more knowledge about the religion of the other, and through that – become more respectful of the other and develop strong bonds of friendship and cooperation. Moreover, the process leads them to share their experience with their students, who are the future religious and social leaders of the Holy Land, and encourage them to form their own groups.

Out of the groups already formed, these are currently active: two groups with students of Otniel Yeshiva and young adults from Yata, students of Otniel Yeshiva and young adults from Hussan, and young adults from Jenin and Gilboa. In addition – a group was formed in Hebron and another group of families from Jericho and Jerusalem. Three branches of the Forum are now in the process of formation: a group of religious leaders in the Tel Aviv area, a group of Ultra-Orthodox Jews and religious Muslims and a group of religious leaders in the Galilee. With time, the Forum and students’ groups will develop into a regional forum whose voice is heard by the people who live in the region between Jerusalem and Hebron, and hopefully other parts of the Holy Land. In parallel the forum will work to recruit support from top leaders, who will also visit occasionally the encounters, even if their time will not permit regular participation.

Due to their position as community religious leaders, the ripple effect will be especially significant. They will convey the message of harmonious coexistence in two ways by incorporating it into their regular teachings, and in responding publicly and jointly to occurrences of xenophobia or prejudices.

Working in a region that is no stranger to conflict, we strive to use a grass-roots approach to facilitate lasting social change. The Forum incorporates the knowledge and experience of regional leaders who have lived their lives within the conflict. Participation alone is a powerful signal of the willingness of people of the region to move towards peace. It is also important to note that Jerusalem and Hebron themselves hold deep religious significance for Islam and Judaism. It has been the setting of ancient and recent conflict. It is essential to the future of both communities to work together to create peace since the Israeli-Palestinian conflict not only affects the citizens in the region, but is also used as a rallying point for tensions and even hatred all over the world. The Jerusalem Hebron Religious Leader’s Forum is coordinated by an energetic and resourceful pair, a Rabbi and a Sheikh. Each of the student groups is coordinated by a Jewish-Muslim team. The Forum meets on a consistent basis every 5-10 weeks, totalling 5-10 encounters during the year. The encounters includes 10-20 influential religious leaders of both the Jewish and Islamic faith who reside in the region around Jerusalem and Hebron.

After mutual greetings, each encounter will start with presenting the theme chosen for it from the Jewish and Muslim perspectives. In the second part, participants study the theme in depth for about an hour – in light of the presentations and the religious texts of both religions. The last part, of around 30 minutes (more/less as needed) is dedicated to identifying public issues that need to be jointly addressed and working to address them, and planning the next encounter. A few specific examples of possible joint projects to combat xenophobia are: making public statements, writing joint editorials, newspaper columns, etc. In parallel: the coordinators of the Forum work to invite more community religious leaders to join the Forum and to recruit the support of top religious leaders (such as the Chief Rabbis of Israel, heads of Islamic courts, heads of religious academies, heads of leading families in the region etc.)

Testimonials

You can find more stories and extensive reporting at the website of the IEA. 

Abdallah Abu Ghanem
I grew up in a single-parent family after my dad had left us and my mother, who is illiterate, raised us by herself.I was born in 1967 in Jerusalem, which means that I grew up after the Six-Day-War and I was taught to hate the Jews (due to the consequences of that war). In elementary school I started learning Hebrew and our Jewish teachers were very kind to us. This caused an internal conflict in me because on one hand I was taught to hate the Jews but here I witnessed how nice and kind the Jewish teachers were behaving towards us. After I graduated from High school I applied to the university but the first Intifada broke out in 1987 and the universities were shut down. As a result I started working and developed relationships with Israeli Jews. I discovered wonderful people (just like those Jewish teachers) – unlike what I had been taught about the Jews till then. This revelation motivated me to start reading about “the other” and engage in conversations with “the other” in order to get to know Jews by talking TO them and not ABOUT them. Then I discovered the Interfaith Encounter Association, started attending encounters and found the place I had been looking for. I believe that G’d created nations and tribes so that we would strive to reach out and get to know each other, as it is mentioned in the Quran. Otherwise, He would have made us all one nation.

Nurit Shoshani-Hechel
Two years ago I joined encounters between Jews and Muslims through the Interfaith Encounter Association. I am currently a part of a group of Jews from Jerusalem and Muslim-Arabs from the Hebron area and we get together once every three or four weeks. During the encounters wonderful friendships were formed between the participants. I discovered over time that even though we had and still have disagreements about politics, we have plenty of similarities as well. Close ties and fondness were forged between the participants from both sides and I have to admit that on a personal level I became more tolerant and understanding towards the Palestinians and the difficulties they were facing and I think the same process took place on the other side as well. Nowadays we are all looking forward to the encounters and upon one of the participants’ suggestion we started teaching each other Hebrew and Arabic. I find myself trying hard to learn new words in Arabic and the motivation to get to know each other grew tremendously. We sometimes had difficult conversations that challenged us to think deeply but then more peaceful conversations followed that allowed us to feel connected and develop our friendship. I would like to express my deep respect and appreciation towards the Interfaith Encounter Association, in which no matter who you are, whether you are religious or secular, left-wing or right-wing, a settler or a staunch opposer of settlements, a supporter of normalizating relations with Israel or opposes normalization – the door is open to all. I believe that the Interfaith Encounter Association is truly unique in its openness and tolerance. It does not require any prerequisites from any of its participants but rather provides a platform for people who are willing to listen and express their views and find the similarities. I hope that the association’s activities will continue and the organization itself will grow and expand because I have no doubt it is of high value and importance.

Endorsements from Unitarians

Elizabeth Darr

Since 1975 I have been a member of the First UU Society of San Francisco, with whose support I became a Credentialed Religious Educator, Master Level (now retired). I have been a member of the IARF since about 1988, when our congregation was tapped for volunteers to work at the IARF World Congress held on the Stanford campus. Having served as Treasurer on the IARF international council for the immediate past term, and currently serving as co-chair of the US Chapter, I feel deeply connected to the projects that our modest organization is able to support.  Among them, the IEA may be the one I feel is most directly contributing to peace, to a diminishing of violence. When I think of world community, with peace and justice, I think that supporting this project is just about the most direct way I live that principle.

Robert Ince

As President of the International Association for Religious Freedom and as former Convenor of the General Assembly of Unitarians in the UK, I very much endorse the work of Interfaith Encounter Association. For me their work is entirely within the spirit of the 6th Principle of the UUA: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all. The IARF and many Unitarian and Universalist communities throughout the world have supported this work over a number of years and, given the demonstrable success and growth that the IEA has shown, it seems to me to be essential that we encourage and publicise their work as a shining example of how to combat fundamentalism and bring peace in the Middle East closer to becoming a reality.

Rev. Dr. Richard Boeke

I add my name to those w ho support the petition to “Faithify” for support of Interfaith Encounters Association.
The IARF has given birth to both the Partner Church Council and the ICUU. To my mind it still deserves the support of UUs and other Faith Communities. If Faithify takes up the cause, I will contribute to support IARF Colleagues leading the Interfaith Encounters Association. Unitarians of Horsham gave £1,000 after Dr. Yehuda Stolov spoke at our Sussex Church. Shalom, Salaam Alaykum

What your donation can do

30$ – covers printing and communications costs for one encounter session.
60$ – buys food for one encounter session.
100$ – enables a Palestinian youth to come to Israel for an encounter session.
250$ – allows us to retain trained coordinators of one encounter session.
500$ – covers all the costs for one Palestinian and Israeli Encounter.
1,500$ – pays for one retreat.
‍5,000$ – can sustain one ongoing dialogue group for one year.

Owensboro Interfaith Center Preparation

We understand ourselves as Faithfully Interfaith. We are a full service Unitarian Universalist ministry in Western Kentucky (MidAmerica Region) with an interfaith mission and 10 years of deliberate work building partnerships with our Muslim, Humanist, Jewish, Baha’i, Christian, Jain, Hindu, and Buddhist neighbors. A year of prayerful discernment and congregational consultation made it clear that Owensboro KY needs an Interfaith Center to focus on nothing but interfaith work. We wondered if we should change our identity? So we considered it very carefully and the answer was clearly, “No.” We decided we can contribute though: We can offer space.

We own our building at a great location in the heart of Owensboro. Our interfaith partners know it as a safe and hospitable space. Our identity as a Welcoming Congregation applies to everything on the premises. So we have decided to convert the basement into the first home of Owensboro’s Interfaith Center. The Center will be established as a separate legal entity with a UU-Partner Board and housed here. We are working with the Ministerial Association on programming plans. There’s just one problem…Slowly but surely the basement has been slipping away due to leakage and due to increased storms, it became unusable in the past year. A forensic architect has advised us on how to fix the problem permanently. The project costs $15,000-17,000 and must be done before renovation. We must wait 6 months between waterproofing and renovation.

Unfortunately our bank considers the waterproofing a separate project because of the delay between phases of contractor work. We’d rather not have two separate loans so we have established a separate Capital fund for waterproofing and have raised $4990 thus far. Yeah! Only $12,010 to go!

Then this cool thing happened! We received a pledge for a matching gift of $5000 if we can raise the balance by 1 July. As it goes, we are great at making scheduled payments, but not so strong on quick fundraising. There are only 27 of us but the energy is good. We are setting up restaurant fundraisers, yard sales and service sales and… think that we can get $2,000 of it. The minister is good for $10 so just $5,000 more to match the pledge! If we get this done now, we can finance renovation (@$60K) next winter and the Interfaith Center can open by Annual Meeting 2019.

Falun Dafa

With Our Muslim Partners

With Our Jain Partners