County’s diverse faiths called to defend religious liberty for all

  • By Rabbi Jessica Marshall and Mary Ellen Wood
  • Friday, April 22, 2016 5:13pm
  • OpinionCommentary

It’s just a postcard. And in some ways it is just a piece of paper. Yet we know it’s not. It’s a piece of paper that focused on a possible building of a mosque in Mukilteo and included an email address Mukilteostaysafe.

Conversations need to take place. Those conversations need to lead to action. This letter is about perspective and action.

We talk about diversity, we have workshops, and yes, make some progress. Usually our diversity conversations involve color, gender, ethnicity, culture and a few other usual suspects. But rarely is religion included in conversations on diversity.

Religion. Among those who identify as having a specific faith, our community heavily identifies with the Christian faith. However, our neighbors can be associated with many religions or no religion. In 1996 this was already acknowledged locally when the North Snohomish County Association of Churches became what is now Interfaith Association of Northwest Washington. A lot has happened since then bringing religion, and acts of fear, hate and violence appearing to be associated with religion into our daily news, many times in horrific fashion.

Wherever prejudice, lack of understanding and ultimately fear are present in our community, action must be taken. Expressed fear of building a mosque in our community is reason for action no matter how few the numbers expressing this fear. We cannot use the phrase “just a small part of our community” as an excuse for inaction.

Let’s consider a well-known quotation of Martin Niemoller which has been re-framed many times. “First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Could this apply to us? Absolutely. For those of us who, over this past week, exercised the freedom to worship in whatever spot we chose, we must stand up together. For those of us who did not choose to worship, we must stand up together. Stand up with our congregations, neighborhood, friends but stand up. Freedom is for all. Freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom of worship. When freedom is not for all then ultimately there is no freedom for anyone.

Interfaith Association will be planning Interfaith Supper Dialogues, an effort long overdue. We’ll need help and support. You can reach Interfaith at 425-252-6672 or www.interfaithwa.org.

Rabbi Jessica Marshall has served Everett’s Temple Beth Or since 2009. Mary Ellen Wood is the executive director of the Interfaith Association of Northwest Washington and lives in Edmonds.

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