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
and statements are welcome:
KC Star report Aug.
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.
By ROBERT A. CRONKLETON
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 email@example.com.
Aug 6, 2012
RAMPAGE CONSIDERED TERRORISM
By STEVEN YACCINO and MARC SANTORA The New York Times
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
The Star’s Eric Adler and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
August 8th, 2012
(CNN) - When 20-year-old
Ashley Carter heard about a mosque burned to the ground in her town this
week, she was shocked.
–CNN's Anna-Lysa Gayle contributed to this report.
Aug 26, 2012
Faiths rally to support mosque
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.
ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF JOPLIN
n.d.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 www.kcinterfaith.org for some resources. Do not let ignorance and hatred have the last word.
Robert Bacic, ConvenerGreater Kansas City Interfaith Council
Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council
P.O. Box 9117
Mission, Kansas 66201
n.dIntolerant 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.
steps up after mosque fire
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 indiegogo.com 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
Source: Common Ground
News Service (CGNews), 14 August 2012, www.commongroundnews.org
Crescent Peace Society Condemns the Attack on the Sikh Community and the Burning of Mosque in Joplin Missouri
For Immediate Release
August 6, 2012
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
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?
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.
12.08.06CRES 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
12.08.15The 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,