Letter to the Editor: Live in Respect

by: Robert Allen Friday, January 22nd, 2010

West Essex Tribune – January 21, 2010

Dear Editor:

Recent events in Livingston have made it disturbingly clear that some of our neighbors have not yet owned the notion that everyone deserves to live in respect and without fear, regardless of their religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or other individual differences.

Most well-known among these incidents was the anti-Semitic vandalism of a school teacher’s car, an act of disrespect towards his religion. Other recent incidents have been rooted in religious bias, but ethnic and racial biases have also been evident.

We recognize when such events are perpetrated by young people, they are learning opportunities, and as such we appreciate those who have been active in bringing appropriate consequences and learning exercises to bear on perpetrators.

However, as clergy representing many faith groups in town, including Catholics, Protestants, Jewish, Hindus and Dharmic people, we want to take this opportunity, particularly in this season remembering the powerful example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to shine a light, however uncomfortable, on the roots of such disrespect.

As credentialed clergy in our different faith traditions, each of us of course firmly embraces the tenets of our own faith. When we call for respect for neighbor, we, most of all, do not believe that necessitates emptying our own faith of content or denying anything about our own identity.

But we understand that each of our faiths teaches us that human dignity is basic, and that means that we would never cause one another a moment’s doubt about their welcome in the community! This goes farther than “tolerance” – we insist that not only our faiths, but our own experience in working with one another, require not just “putting up with” one another, but appreciating one another. We are thankful for having the opportunity to know each other, and we call our community to embrace a higher goal: to learn to know our neighbors, and to appreciate each of them as a gift from God.

Let us no longer tacitly approve intimidating behavior among us by refusing to speak against it. We celebrate our differences and, with Dr. King in his “I Have A Dream” speech, embrace and pursue a dreamed-of community where “black and white people, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics would be able to join hands.”

Rev. Susan Gillespie

Trinity Covenant Church, 343 East Cedar Street

Editor’s Note: This letter was also signed by Rabbi Mark Kaiserman of Temple Emanu-El, Anju Bhargava of the Hindu American Seva, Rev. Leslie Martin of the Federated Church, Rev. Daniel Martian of the Presbyterian Church of Livingston, Sr. Barbara Howard SSJ of St. Phlomena Church, Dr. L. Richard Vossler of Grace Lutheran Church, Rev. Ronald DePasquale of Full Gospel Church and Rev. Elizabeth Wigg-Maxwell of St. Peter’s Church.

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