revised   06.06.02 --  Please reload/refresh....On the web since.1997.

click for information about these symbols of world religions and liberation movements


Reports and Statements on 2012 Assaults on Interfaith Comity:
Wisconsin Sikh Temple and Joplin Mosque


0._   Kansas City Star and other reports 2012 Aug 7-26

1._  Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council

2._  Mark Scheel: Intolerant Act Can’t Diminish Stellar Interfaith Record

3._  Mark Scheel: Interfaith community steps up after mosque fire

4._  Crescent Peace Society Condemns the Attack on the Sikh Community and the Burning of Mosque in Joplin Missouri

5.__ Mary Sanchez: Last week for religious bigots

6.__ Ed Chasteen: Responding to Evil

9.__ Personal statement by Vern Barnet

additional reports and statements are welcome: 
email to


KC Star report   Aug. 7, 2012

Diverse faiths in KC area are on edge after Wisconsin rampage

Fire at Joplin mosque adds to worry for Kansas City’s Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and others.

The Kansas City Star

The news of the shooting rampage at a Wisconsin Sikh temple began to spread across the Kansas City Sikh community while people were in services Sunday.

They immediately prayed for the victims and for any possible hostages — praying for a quick resolution without any more tragedy.

On Monday, they were finding it a challenge to come to terms with not only the loss of life, but a deeper question.

“As an American, it’s hard to comprehend how I should be fearful in my place of worship,” said Charanjit Hundal, a spokesman for the Midwest Sikh Gurudwara in Shawnee, a Sikh temple.

“This country is my country, and I have the right to practice my faith as my forefathers ... (who) came from persecution of religion of their country at that time.”

His fears were echoed by others of diverse faiths in the Kansas City community that incidents such as Sunday’s shootings — and the burning of a Joplin mosque on Monday — could happen in their places of worship.

“It certainly crosses your mind,” said Lama Chuck Stanford of Rime Buddhist Center in the Crossroads District. “If it could happen at a Sikh temple, it could happen at the Rime Center.”

But Stanford said he refused to let it make him live his life in fear.

The Wisconsin gunman killed six people at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek before being shot to death by police. He was identified Monday as Wade Michael Page, 40.

He was an Army veteran who trained in psychological warfare, according to The Associated Press. He joined the Army in 1992, and was demoted and was discharged in 1998.

Officials at the Southern Poverty Law Center told The New York Times that they had been tracking Page for about a decade because of his ties to the white supremacist movement. They described him as “a frustrated neo-Nazi who had been the leader of a racist white-power band.”

They said Page played guitar and sang vocals for a band started in 2005 called End Apathy.

“This guy was in the thick of the white supremacist music scene and, in fact, played with some of the best known racist bands in the country,” Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the center, told the Times.

“The music that comes from these bands is incredibly violent, and it talks about murdering Jews, black people, gay people and a whole host of other enemies. It is music that could not be sold over the counter around the country.”

Wisconsin authorities were treating the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism.

Sikhism is a monotheistic faith that’s at least 500 years old. Its roots are in India. Male followers often wear turbans and refrain from shaving their beards.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, members of Sikh communities have often been confused for Muslims.

The Crescent Peace Society, a Kansas City area organization that promotes awareness of the Muslim cultures, condemned the attack on the Sikh temple as well as the fire that burned a Joplin mosque to the ground early Monday.

Federal authorities have not determined whether the fire was arson, but it was the second fire to hit the Islamic Society of Joplin in a little more than a month. The first fire was determined to be arson.

“If this fire is determined to be deliberate in nature, it will be investigated to the fullest extent possible,” Michael Kaste, FBI special agent in charge, said in a statement. “Any act of violence to a house of worship is taken very seriously by law enforcement and threatens the very core of the safety and security that our communities enjoy.”

Despite recent violence, Mohammad Khurram Qureshi, president of the Crescent Peace Society, said he sees no indication that intolerance is growing.

“I’d say there’s more awareness going on,” Qureshi said.

He sees a growing respect for those with different beliefs.

“We are all part of the same community that we are sharing,” he said.

Hundal said no major vandalism or violence has been directed toward the Gurudwara in Shawnee. There have been some minor, isolated incidences, he said, like people throwing trash at the facility at night.

“Now you wonder if those minor things could lead to major things,” Hundal said. “I think that’s the fear our congregation is having now.”

That fear is conflicting with the Sikhs’ faith, which teaches its followers to be very open and very accepting of others, he said.

“We don’t want to be closed up. We are part of this community. We want to be open,” he said. “But we also want to protect the congregation here and anybody else that is visiting this facility ... from anybody else that would try to do something like this.”

The Shawnee Police Department is providing extra patrols around the temple, said Capt. Dan Tennis, spokesman for the department.

The Sikh community also has asked for training that would be similar to instruction that new bank employees receive on robbery prevention or retail clerks receive on anti-shoplifting measures.

The training is being discussed but hasn’t been formulized yet, Tennis said.

The Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council has worked to foster communication among faith communities to stem religious persecution, especially the anti-Muslim activity that happened after 9/11.

“The Interfaith Council really works very diligently to try to educate people to understand that we are a diverse culture or a diverse society,” Stanford said. “That’s not a weakness. It’s a strength.”

Some of the persecution stems from fear of the unknown.

“Learning of other faiths makes you appreciate your own faith more,” Stanford said. “It doesn’t diminish it. I think it enhances it.”

Debabrata Bhaduri, a member of the board of trustees for the Hindu Temple of Kansas City in Shawnee, said that despite the differences between the Sikh religion and Hinduism, they are all brothers.

“This is a very, very sad and horrible incident,” he said. “We are all shocked since this happened in the Sikhs’ temple.”

The best way to prevent events like Sunday’s shooting, Bhaduri said, is to get out and educate people about the different faiths and by connecting with the wider community.

Restricting access and withdrawing is not an option.

“We cannot do that,” Bhaduri said. “When there’s a gathering of the people, we have to keep the door open.”

To reach Robert A. Cronkleton, call 816-234-4261 or send email to


Aug 6, 2012

Six worshippers are slain, and the attacker is killed by police in a shootout.


   OAK CREEK, Wis. | In what police called an act of domestic terrorism, a gunman opened fire in a Sikh temple in this Milwaukee suburb on Sunday, killing at least six worshippers and injuring three others before being shot and killed in the parking lot.
   The rampage ended in a shootout with police. The gunman ambushed one of the first officers arriving at the temple, shooting him several times, before he was killed by another officer, authorities said.
   The FBI will lead the investigation because the shootings were being treated as an act of domestic terrorism, said Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards.
   Witnesses described a scene of chaos and carnage after the rampage began at about 10:30 a.m. at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek. The sprawling 17,000-square-foot temple was crowded with men, women and children taking part in Sunday services when the gunman opened fire.
   Jatinder Mangat, whose uncle, Satwant Kaleka, is the temple president, said he tried to call his uncle as soon as he heard about the shooting. It was not his uncle who answered, but the head priest.
   “He was crying, everyone was screaming,” Mangat said. The gunman was still stalking the hallways, Mangat said; the priest said he was hiding in the bathroom with four other people, including two children.
   Some women who had been cooking food for a later service hid together in closets, and others fled. Men grabbed children, finding cover wherever they could.
   “We never thought this could happen to our community,” said Devendar Nagra, 48, of Mount Pleasant, whose sister escaped injury by hiding as the gunman fired in the temple’s kitchen. “We never did anything wrong to anyone.”
   By early afternoon, tactical officers had swept the building and determined that there were no other gunmen.
   The wounded officer was hospitalized in critical condition, along with two other shooting victims.
   The gunman ambushed the first officer who arrived on the scene, Edwards said. Bradley Wentlandt, the chief of police in nearby Greenfield, said the injured officer was a 20-year veteran whose heroism probably saved many lives.
   Late Sunday, the investigation into the rampage appeared to move beyond the temple as police, federal agents and the county sheriff’s bomb squad swarmed a neighborhood in nearby Cudahy and evacuated homes. Police roped off four blocks around a duplex, but the building’s owner said authorities would not say whether it was related to the shootings.
   Sikh communities around the country have seen an increase in bias attacks since Sept. 11, 2001, with members often confused for Muslims. In fact, the Sikh religion does not have its roots in the Middle East but in India.
   Sikhism is a monotheistic faith founded more than 500 years ago. It has roughly 27 million followers worldwide. Observant Sikhs do not cut their hair; male followers often wear turbans and refrain from shaving their beards.
   In April, Rep. Joseph Crow-ley, a New York Democrat and co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Indian and Indian Americans, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder urging the collection of data on hate crimes committed against Sikh Americans.
   In the last year alone, Crow-ley said in the letter, two Sikh men in Sacramento, Calif., were murdered, a Sikh temple in Michigan was vandalized and a Sikh man was beaten in New York.
   There are about 314,000 Sikhs living in America, according to the Association of Religion Data Archives. The temple in Oak Creek, Wis., has around 400 worshippers.
   About 2,000 Sikhs live in the Kansas City area, said Harvinder Singh Tiwana, 46, of Lenexa and vice president of the Kansas City Midwest Sikh Association’s Gurdwara, a temple in Shawnee.
   “Everyone is shocked and sad,” Tiwana said.
   The news quickly spread through Kansas City’s Sikh community. Members have already begun a fundraising effort for the families of the victims of the shooting, as well as for the police officer who was shot, Tiwana said. “We don’t know what happened. No idea,” Tiwana said of the Wisconsin rampage. The shooting came two weeks after a gunman killed 12 people at a theater in Colorado. 

The Star’s Eric Adler and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


August 8th, 2012
Christian college student's idea leads to rally for burned mosque
By Josh Levs, CNN

(CNN) - When 20-year-old Ashley Carter heard about a mosque burned to the ground in her town this week, she was shocked.
     "I was very saddened," she told CNN on Wednesday. "I thought it was very evil."
     So Carter, a student at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri, texted a friend, suggesting they organize an event "promoting acts of love."
     But quickly, the idea changed: They would organize a "rally of people coming together, from all walks of life, all religions, a really diverse group of people trying to promote this radical love."
     She called Kimberly Kester, spokeswoman for the Islamic Society of Joplin, whose worship house serving about 50 families in the southwest Missouri city burned down Monday. Investigators have not determined the cause, but the mosque has been attacked in the past.
My Faith: After my mosque was torched
     Kester supported the idea. So Carter and some of her friends created the plan for the rally and announced it on a Facebook page. The next day, Tuesday, word began to spread. By Wednesday morning, more than 400 people had posted that they would attend the event, scheduled for Saturday, August 25.
     Carter said she was inspired by "my love for Jesus. And I know that Jesus calls us to love people."
     "With everything that's been happening in the news this week" - which includes a shooting Sunday at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin that left six worshipers and the gunman dead - "I was pretty discouraged," Carter said. "Regardless of what you believe, I think everybody's entitled to loving whoever."
     Kester told CNN she and other members of the mosque plan to attend the rally.
     The response to the burning from people throughout the community has been "outstanding," she said. "There were representatives from different churches, different organizations at the site that afternoon speaking to the Imam. People have been calling anyone that they know that has been involved with the mosque, offering to help."
     St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Joplin is hosting an iftar - a meal eaten by Muslims after dark during Ramadan - on Wednesday evening. The Council on American-Islamic Relations announced that speakers will include members of the interfaith community. Sponsoring groups include the South Joplin Christian Church, the United Hebrew Congregation, the First Community Church and Peace Lutheran Church, CAIR said.
     Representatives of various Islamic groups will attend, Kester said. They will discuss the future and what provisions are needed to continue Sunday school and prayers.
     The mosque is holding daily prayers at someone's house now, and expects to rent a new place as soon as this week, although numerous religious institutions have offered their facilities, Kester said.
     "We're hoping for security and that type of support from our community," she added.
     Members say this is an opportunity to kind of start over and improve on things that we've always wanted to improve upon, like our security system or Sunday school facilities," she said. "It's a time for us to unite and focus on supporting each other. And yes, it's a tragedy ... but we want to focus on coming together and building a stronger community."
     No final decision has been made on whether the mosque will move to a new location, but there is a consensus to move inside the city limits, Kester said. "We feel that the response time for fire employees would be less if were in the city limits and it would offer us a little bit more protection and security."
     No definite plans will be made before an investigation is completed into the burning, said the mosque's treasurer, Navid Zaidi. "We need to get this crime solved, before we do anything."
     He said he hopes the rally is safe and that authorities keep everyone protected. Assuming the fire was arson, the perpetrator "is out there - he is loose," Zaidi said.
     Zaidi described the support coming from the community as "tremendous."
     A fundraising effort to help rebuild the mosque is off to an auspicious start.
     The website of the official campaign shows a goal of $250,000, with more than $40,000 pledged by Wednesday afternoon.
     A video for the campaign refers to the mosque as "our refuge in a crazy and hectic world." It shows what the mosque looked like, followed by images of the charred wreckage.
     Arsalan Iftikhar, an international human rights lawyer and founder of, tweeted that he will donate a dollar for every retweet of his message. He quickly got hundreds of retweets.
     Iftikhar is a frequent contributor to
     Carter says she expects donations to be taken at the rally. And anyone who wants to donate money to cover the costs of staging the rally can through the Facebook page.
     Different kinds of bands will play, including religious bands, she said. And speakers will talk about "promoting love."
     "When there's an act of hate, you have a choice to make it something beautiful. So that's what this is all about: making things beautiful from things that aren't."

–CNN's Anna-Lysa Gayle contributed to this report.


Aug 26, 2012

Faiths rally to support mosque
After a fire destroyed the building of Joplin’s Muslim congregation, churches reached out.

By LAURA BAUER The Kansas City Star


   The burned-out remains of Joplin’s mosque still smoldered the morning of Aug. 6 when Kimberly Kester realized how the community truly felt about her Muslim congregation.
   A leader with the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints showed up near sunrise wanting to help. So did someone from the Jewish synagogue. Before long, calls were coming in from an Episcopal priest, the Lutherans, and just about every other church group in the southwest Missouri town.
   “They wanted to tell us how horrible this was. They wanted to know what we needed,” said Kester, “I thought, ‘These other churches, they are bigger than us, stronger than us. And they are protecting us, standing up for us.’ ”
   That morning, and in the weeks since, the beliefs that distinguish and separate the groups and residents of Joplin haven’t seemed to matter. It’s a lesson some say many learned 15 months ago when a tornado destroyed one-third of Joplin.
   Since the fire — the cause remains undetermined — congregations have used their church signs to reach out to the Muslims. Sojourners, a national Christian social justice advocacy group, put up a billboard stating, “Love your Muslim neighbors.”
   Thousands of people worldwide have donated. That has help raise more than $400,000 for a new mosque to replace what opened in 2007. And on Saturday, hundreds gathered in a Joplin park for a rally to support the 50 families that belong to the Islamic Society of Joplin.
   Jill Michel, pastor of South Joplin Christian Church, sees how people have been moved by the need. They’ve resisted the equally human impulse to focus on differences.
   They don’t ask: “Are we the same? Are we allowed? Are there boundaries we shouldn’t cross?’ …
   “We are,” she said, “part of one greater whole.”
   A student at Joplin’s Ozark Christian College organized Saturday’s event in Landreth Park with speakers, bands and food. People from across the region traveled to the southwest Missouri town of 50,000 for the event.
   “Regardless of whatever persecution or hatred comes our way … we’re going to respond with radical love,” said 20-year-old organizer Ashley Carter, who’s from Arkansas City, Kan. “That’s what’s going to make a difference.”
   Many children and families were among those who turned out Saturday, said Hina Qidwai, a mosque member and speaker at the rally.
   “It was beautiful,” Qidwai said, describing the atmosphere of brotherhood and caring that she felt from the Christian congregations and members of other faiths who participated. “Everything was perfect.”
   When the mosque burned to the ground this month, authorities were still investigating a smaller fire at the location on July 4. In that earlier incident, surveillance video showed a white man walking up to the building and throwing an ignited object onto the roof, according to information released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
   Investigators still have not made a connection between the two fires, and authorities won’t say what factors led them to rule the cause of the Aug. 6 blaze as undetermined. Authorities with four agencies, including the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, are still investigating.
   “The leads aren’t quite as hot and heavy as it was the first several days,” said ATF Special Agent Trista Frederick. “We’re still looking for any additional information the public may have.”
   The FBI and ATF have offered a $15,000 reward for pertinent information in the July 4 fire. And authorities recently put up billboards in Joplin and the Springfield area asking for information.
   “We want to keep it out there,” said Bridget Patton, spokeswoman for the FBI office in Kansas City.
   In Joplin, members of the mosque feel the support every day.
   Qidwai, a mother of two, is a member and former vice president of the Islamic Society of Joplin. In the weeks since the fire, people have stopped her at the grocery store and at her daughter’s elementary school to give support to her congregation. Her neighbors sent a note saying they were sorry the mosque had burned.
   “We lost our church, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, in the tornado,” the couple wrote. “But we have stayed together and worship together as we have always done. We have a vision that one day we will have a beautiful building and you will too.
   “Our community will continue to support you.”
   After the May 22, 2011, tornado, as people pitched in to help survivors, the Muslims opened their mosque as a shelter for relief agencies. Members of the Islamic center collected supplies for families who lost everything and delivered 10 carloads of items.
   In the weeks since the fire, the tables have turned.
   “They said, ‘You guys have done enough, now it’s time for us to help you,’ ” Qidwai said. “I got introduced to people who said, ‘Hey we do playsets, we do roofing.’ ”
   The second fire happened in the middle of Ramadan, an Islamic holy month where Muslims fast and remain deep in prayer. Many feel the fire was meant to happen during that time.
   “You are focusing on fasting and being humble,” Qidwai said. “It was like we were training all month on reacting to this, on forgiving. … You train your souls for all ordeals.”
   The focus now is on moving on, not what caused the fire or who is to blame.
   “It’s still a faith community without a place to worship, still brothers and sisters that need our support and response,” said Michel, of South Joplin Christian Church. “Churches around here are saying, ‘If you need help rebuilding, we’ll help.’ I can guarantee if they want to use volunteer power to rebuild, it will be there of all faiths.”
   Immediately after the Aug. 6 fire, supporters launched a fundraising campaign hoping to raise $250,000 for the new mosque. They reached that in just 24 hours. People from 23 countries have raised more than $404,000.
   At this point, leaders and members of the Islamic Society of Joplin know they will rebuild, they just don’t know whether it will be on the same land in Jasper County or if they’ll try to find property inside Joplin. They also don’t know what type of building they want.
   But they know they won’t be alone when the time comes to break ground.
   “It’s the emotional support that has touched our hearts,” Kester said. “It’s enabled us to feel like we’re a larger part of the community.”
   To reach Laura Bauer, call
   816-234-4944 or email

   Beliefs that separated Joplin faiths were set aside when a fire destroyed a mosque and churches reached out.

Tragedy touches the lives of our Sikh and Muslim Friends

Tragedy has touched the lives of our Sikh and Muslim friends in recent days.  On the morning of August 5th, a gunman opened fire on innocent people, who were arriving for worship at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.  Six people were killed and four were wounded.  During the early morning hours of the very next day, August 6th, the Islamic Center of Joplin, Missouri, was burned to the ground.  Given that this same mosque was vandalized earlier in July, it is likely the fire was deliberately set. 

The Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council deplores these crimes and shares in the sorrows of our Sikh and Muslim neighbors.  The urgency of our work is more pressing than ever; and so we recommit ourselves to the mission of interfaith understanding and solidarity.  The desire behind every program, presentation and collaboration of the  Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council is to grow a culture of knowledge, respect, appreciation and trust among people of all faiths.  We invite everyone in Greater Kansas City to protest these abhorrent acts by making a commitment  to learn more about the Sikh and Islamic faith traditions.  Visit our website at for some resources.   Do not let ignorance and hatred have the last word. 

Robert Bacic, Convener
Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council
Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council
P.O. Box 9117
Mission, Kansas 66201


Intolerant Act Can’t Diminish Stellar Interfaith Record
by Mark Scheel

Shawnee Mission, Kansas—On July 4 in Joplin, Missouri, a fire broke out on the roof of the Islamic Society of Joplin mosque, an apparent act of arson.  Firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze before the building sustained significant damage; however, a second fire of unknown origin on August 6 nearly burned the structure to the ground.  These events are noteworthy for being such a striking contrast to the region’s exemplary atmosphere of interfaith tolerance, understanding and acceptance.  Lying a mere 150 miles south of the Greater Kansas City metropolitan area, Joplin reflects in large measure that locality’s rich interfaith history and internationally recognized model of religious cooperation.

That distinction for Kansas City is due primarily to the vision and efforts of one man, the Rev. Vern Barnet, Unitarian Universalist pastor and “Faith and Beliefs” columnist for The Kansas City Star.  Sensing a need for greater religious understanding among different faiths, he founded the Center for Religious Experience and Study (CRES) in 1982. As interest and participation grew, and in an attempt to also establish interfaith dialogue and cooperation, he helped form a later subgroup, the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council (GKCIC), which since January 2005 has become its own independent entity.  Both organizations have sponsored or helped organize interfaith luncheons, book clubs, conferences, youth activities and interfaith choral performances.

The Raindrop Turkish House, an Islamic cultural center founded under the auspices of the M. Fethullah Gülen inspired Institute of Interfaith Dialog (IID), sponsors frequent cultural and religious outreach events.  During the recent holy month of Ramadan, the director, Murat Tatli, extended an invitation to non-Muslims in the community to share an Iftar dinner, or breaking of the fast.  As Mr. Tatli explained, “During this blessed month, Muslims are encouraged to invite their friends and neighbors to dinner and break bread with them even if they have only a single date or olive to serve.”  Judging from the many favorable comments afterward, attendees were strongly impressed with the warmth and hospitality in evidence. 

Such activities have garnered rich results.  In 2007 Kansas City was selected for the nation’s first Interfaith Academies, an effort sponsored in part by Harvard University’s Pluralism Project.  And in 2008 two Italian Muslim leaders, Wagih Saad Hassan Hassan and El Hassan Sadiq, toured the United States to learn about interfaith work, and concluded that Kansas City “displayed more genuine interfaith work” than anywhere else they had been.

Consequently, the fire in Joplin (as well as the recent horrific shootings in the Wisconsin Sikh temple) has aroused the interfaith community to ask what more can be done to prevent such tragedies of misunderstanding?  Beth Rieke, an elementary teacher in Shawnee Mission and a participant in the work of IID, advocates stepping up student interfaith activities and studies in the classroom.  Her husband, Greg Rieke, Christian liaison with the Raindrop Turkish House, emphasizes greater promotion of the interfaith message to educators, clergy and politicians who may be in a position to influence the thinking of large segments of the public. 

Scott Parks, a local radio personality, is stressing the important role the media can play in enhanced coverage of different faith activities within the region.  The key in all this would seem to be fostering deeper understanding among peoples and dispelling misconceptions.

Last May, in observance of the one year anniversary of a devastating tornado that struck Joplin, destroying nearly one third of the city, residents organized an interfaith celebration at Landreth Park, joining together in prayer, song and worship to heal as a community.  Readings were conducted from the Bible, the Qur’an and the Torah.  Isolated intolerant acts must not be allowed to blemish or diminish that gentle spirit on display.

# # # 

Mark Scheel is a writer and former editor based in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. He has spoken and written about interfaith relations both in the U.S. and abroad. His most recent book, A Backward View, was the recipient of the J. Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award.


Interfaith community steps up after mosque fire
by Mark Scheel
18 August 2012

Shawnee Mission, Kansas - On 4 July in Joplin, Missouri, a fire broke out on the roof of the Islamic Society of Joplin mosque, apparently an act of arson. Firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze before the building sustained significant damage. However, a second fire of unknown origin, which many are concerned is arson, appeared on 6 August and burnt the mosque to the ground.

Because Joplin lies within a Midwest region internationally known for its exemplary atmosphere of interfaith tolerance, understanding and acceptance, these events present a particularly striking and disheartening contrast. They have prompted this area’s interfaith community to ask what more can be done to prevent such tragedies in the future.

Relationships across group lines are especially crucial when dealing with the vulnerability and fear that comes from the aftermath of violence. When such an incident occurs, it is vital for the community to band together in support of those affected — which is exactly what is happening in Joplin, and beyond. Sojourners, a national Christian advocacy group for social justice, is calling for donations to fund an ad in The Joplin Globe newspaper assuring the Muslim community that they “are loved, the attack…was immoral, and an attack on religious liberty everywhere.”

In Joplin, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church provided a venue for an iftar dinner, the breaking of the Muslim Ramadan fast, as the Muslim congregation had lost their own space for the event. Members of several other churches and the United Hebrew Congregation participated. And an online fundraiser for the Islamic Society of Joplin through the fundraising website has raised more than $300,000 – surpassing its original goal of $250,000. Along with face-to-face interaction, media can also contribute to promoting understanding.

Scott Parks, a former journalist and Kansas City radio talk-show host, is not one to shy away from controversial religious topics. He has repeatedly stressed the important role the media can play in enhancing positive coverage of different faiths’ activities within the region. According to Parks, accurate, informative reporting on ceremonies and gatherings conducted by different faith groups that are open to the public can serve an important community educational function and promote increased understanding across faith lines.

Beth Rieke, an elementary teacher in Shawnee Mission, Kansas and a participant in the work of the Institute of Interfaith Dialog, is an advocate of stepping up student interfaith activities and studies in the classroom. Through this work, she has been able to dispel misconceptions about Islam in combined-class discussion groups and among fellow faculty members. Her husband, Greg Rieke, Christian liaison with the Raindrop Turkish House, a Muslim organisation that supports cross-cultural understanding, has personally witnessed the benefit of this work. He emphasises promoting interfaith messages more widely to educators, clergy and politicians who may be in a position to influence the thinking of large segments of the public.

Last May, in observance of the one year anniversary of a devastating tornado that struck Joplin, destroyinge nearly one third of the city, residents organised an interfaith celebration at Landreth Park, joining together in prayer, song and worship to heal as a community. Participants shared readings from the Bible, the Qur’an and the Torah.

This week Nihad Awad, the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that the same spirit exhibited after the tornado needed to be revived in response to the fire at the mosque. Following the tornado, the mosque was a host for workers from AmeriCorps, Catholic Charities and other groups and churches. Now the opportunity has arisen for the Joplin citizenry to reciprocate.

Groups and individuals from this community who are taking up this call are living examples of how to promote environments that foster understanding in the wake of tragedy.

The key seems to be that fostering deeper understanding among peoples of different faiths and establishing harmonious relationships in the process repudiates misconceptions. Isolated, intolerant acts should not be allowed to blemish the strength of that gentle spirit on display.
# # #

* Mark Scheel is a writer based in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. His most recent book, A Backward View, was the recipient of the J. Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award. This article was written for the Common Ground News
Service (CGNews).

Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 14 August 2012,
Copyright permission is granted for publication.


Crescent Peace Society Condemns the Attack on the Sikh Community and the Burning of Mosque in Joplin Missouri

For Immediate Release August 6, 2012
Contact: M. Khurram Qureshi - President
(913) 980-6461

The Crescent Peace Society condemns the attack that took place on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin yesterday and the burning of the mosque in Joplin Missouri this morning. In what likely represents an ethnic and/or religiously targeted hate crime, 6 innocent people have been confirmed killed with others significantly injured in Wisconsin yesterday and the burning to the ground of a Muslim mosque in Joplin that was vandalized earlier in July.

The Crescent Peace Society extends its heartfelt condolences on behalf of the Muslim community to the Sikh community of Oak Creek, Wisconsin as well as the greater Sikh community. The Crescent Peace Society also extends its heartfelt condolences to the Muslims in Joplin Missouri.

The Crescent Peace Society sends its thoughts and prayers to the victims of these hate crimes. The Crescent Peace Society will continue to stand with all minority groups in combating discrimination and hate. No legitimate goal can ever be accomplished by the harming of innocent people.

The Crescent Peace Society calls upon national and local law enforcement agencies, as well as local communities, to be increasingly vigilant against such crimes. We encourage the media that while they educate Americans about Sikhism as a peace seeking faith; Muslims in America are also a peace seeking faith. We must stand in solidarity that a crime against one faith is a crime against all faiths.


Christian conservatives work the victim hustle
The Kansas City Star Aug. 14, 2012
Last week was an active one for religious bigots.

On Sunday a gunman slaughtered six Sikhs who were going to their house of worship in the outskirts of Milwaukee. The gunman killed himself, so we may never learn the full story of his motivation. But it is clear he considered his victims’ religion alien to his idea of America, and it’s possible he was unaware of the distinction between Sikhism and Islam.

The next day, a Muslim mosque near Joplin, Mo., burned to the ground. The fire has been labeled “suspicious.” Federal agents are swarming the area. A July 4 fire at the same mosque had already been determined to be arson.

It will surprise no one if the culprit turns out to be a nutcase with a hatred of non-Christians and non-Caucasians.

It would be a mistake, however, to dismiss the nativist paranoia behind this terrorism as an aberration. For it echoes through mainstream politics and culture, with right-wing media personalities and elected officials promoting the idea that Christians are somehow victims of religious discrimination.

Consider the constitutional amendment Missourians overwhelmingly approved at the polls the day after the mosque fire. It purported to secure the “right to pray.” It passed by a 5-to-1 margin, and no wonder: Its most troubling passages were not spelled out on the ballot.

Yes, the ballot did stipulate that the amendment would guarantee the uncontroversial and already secure right of Missourians to assert their religious beliefs. It also made clear that the amendment would establish the right of schoolchildren “to pray and acknowledge God voluntarily in their schools.”

But other language in the amendment was not included in the ballot, such as: “No student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs.” Or of the language in the amendment protecting the right of elected officials to pray on public property.

Why is such an amendment necessary in a state where 80 percent of all citizens are avowed Christians, where churches are prominent institutions and where public displays of piety are the stock in trade of politicians?

Why, while the Muslims of Joplin picked through rubble to salvage remnants of the Qur’an from their burned mosque, and while the Sikhs of Milwaukee mourned their dead, were the Christians of Missouri voting to protect the right to pray in this way?

Most voters who approved the Missouri prayer amendment likely assumed the proposal sounded innocuous, knowing that their religious freedoms are already guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

But when pressed by media, many backers of the amendment spoke about ensuring that school children have the right to refuse learning about Buddha, or Islam, or being somehow indoctrinated by learning about how Muslims pray.

And there the true intent is discovered. This amendment is for conservative Christians who are offended that they might have to acknowledge that not everyone in the world is Christian.

As I write this, I am wearing a white gold cross necklace. There is a St. Christopher’s medal mixed in with the paperclips in a dish on my desk. A few biblical quotes are tacked up, too. I can pause anytime I want and say a few words of prayer. I am not under siege. My church will be standing on Sunday.

The ACLU has filed a federal lawsuit arguing that a section of the amendment (also omitted from the ballot language) does not extend its protections to all citizens equally. (To wit, “this section shall not be construed to expand the rights of prisoners in state or local custody beyond those afforded by the laws of the United States.”)

Classic. It’s always a red flag when a majority group, falsely claiming discrimination against itself, lays the groundwork for tolerating discrimination against another group.

So the question has to be asked: Did the Christian conservatives pushing this amendment offer prayers on behalf of the suffering Muslims in Joplin or the Sikhs in Wisconsin?


Responding to Evil
By Ed Chasteen, CRES Amity Shaman

Evil is alive in our world. It struck on August 5th in Oak Creek, Wisconsin and the next day in Joplin, Missouri. A gunman murdered six people during worship services in Oak Creek. Someone burned a house of worship to the ground in Joplin.

Every person on the planet is precious. I learned this in church. We all enter the household of faith through a certain door. I entered through the Christian door. Once inside, I met folks who entered through other doors. At first I was uneasy, awkward and defensive.  But as I got to know them, I grew to like them. We began to talk.

We were neighbors now. And I thought of what Jesus said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul, and your neighbor as yourself.”

The Sikhs who were murdered in Oak Creek and the Muslims in Joplin whose place of worship was destroyed are members with me in the household of faith Their loss diminishes me and make me sad.

And mad! Righteous anger! Those who kill and burn find no support in the household of faith. None of the teachings at home in this place support what they do.

Their actions, though, give those of us in the household opportunity to rally round our besieged brethren. As we close ranks to protect our own, we deliver a powerful message. Our household of faith grows stronger, and those who would do it harm are put on notice: “Your behavior will not be tolerated. By doing us harm, you make us stronger.”

So I went on August 8th to the prayer vigil called by the Kansas City Sikh community. I told those assembled that HateBusters across the country would write love letters to Oak Creek.

On August 10th I drove to Joplin. Yahya Furqan and Tadar Wazir went with me. In our HateBuster mobile, license # H8BSTR. We saw the burned building. We met the imam (minister) and some of his members.

This was our message to both congregations.

Dear Ones,
            My heart breaks at your terrible loss. I would like to help. My students and I started HateBusters back in 1988. We wanted to help people who had been hurt by hate. We have been asked by governors, mayors, churches, synagogues, masjids, Islamic Centers, temples, gurdwaras, schools, colleges, universities, police departments, prisons, civic clubs and concerned citizens to come and help. We never say no. We never ask for money.
            HateBusters helps in many ways. We raise money. We rally support. We hold prayer meetings and press conferences. We organize bicycle rides and Human Family Reunions. We go to court. We write love letters. We do whatever is needed. All at no cost to those we help.
            Please tell me how I might be of help. I have hundreds of HateBusters across the country anxious to come to your aid.

Your Friend,
Ed Chasteen
HateBusters Founder
The Pedalin’ Prof from William Jewell College
Ambassador from Second Baptist Church to Other Communities of Faith


CRES statement:American violence continues. Sikhs were murdered Aug 5 at their gurdwara in Wisconsin.  After arson July 4, the Islamic Center in Joplin was burned to the ground early August 6. Our Sikh and Muslim friends are especially in our thoughts and prayers, along with others suffering from prejudice, violence and oppression.

Personal Statement by Vern Barnet

The upswing in attacks -- against children and others in the urban core and elsewhere -- and among political and religious figures and sites -- arises, in part, from a gun lobby whose real concern is profit from selling arms and ammunition while pretending, with the collusion of a strange Supreme Court majority, that it is about protecting the Second Amendment; and in part from the poisonous atmosphere created by "entertainers" like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly (even against fellow Christians with whom they disagree), and disparaging remarks uttered by some politicians and not rebuked by others, such as the lie that President Obama is a Muslim, as if that would be something bad.

Locally we have seen the business and political leaders in Independence, MO, sponsor and defend a bigot given the platform at the recent Independence Mayors Prayer Breakfast, and folks in Johnson County so threatened peaceful Buddhists that they were forced to withdraw their plans for building a few miles from their present site. Now in nearby Joplin, a second firey event, this time completely successful, on a mosque, and the sense of foreboding by some of our local Sikh friends as well.

My column each Wednesday for The Kansas City Star regularly produces hateful and ignorant emails and other comments about non-Christian religions, and you have probably seen some of the many reprehensible emails circulated from the web purporting to reveal the true nature and imminent threat of some non-Christian religions. If we are to preserve the health of our community, interfaith efforts must be better coordinated and Christian leaders in particular must do more to educate their folks and help to create interfaith friendships.

Further, I do not believe interfaith efforts will receive the priority they deserve until we see that the world's faiths have the remedies for the three great crises of our time: the endangered environment, the eclipse of true personhood, and the rending of the social fabric. The primal faiths have special insights into nature; the Asian faiths into the soul; the monotheistic faiths into social covenant. Until interfaith efforts are focused with the urgency of these crises, and understand how the three crises are manifestations of a single profanation of the Sacred,   interfaith will remain a secondary concern for most people, or even a concern to which they are hostile.

------With gratitude for those persons and institutions who, proactively and in response to specific situations, arecworking to enhance our appreciation for the many and sundry communities of faith,

Vern Barnet