Know Your Neighbor: Multifaith Encounters

Campaign Description

Know Your Neighbor: Multifaith Encounters is a national grassroots campaign of the Know Your Neighbor Coalition, created and led by Islamic Networks Group (ING). The campaign is a response to the voices of hate and division which are growing louder and more numerous, particularly against Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (AMEMSA) communities, and other minorities. Together, we seek to respond to anti-minority sentiment, bigotry, and hatred by encouraging and facilitating face-to-face engagement, relationship-building, dialogue, and action between people of different religious traditions, beliefs, and cultures.

Over the coming year, with the unique opportunities and needs that an election cycle brings, congregations, places of worship, and community-based organizations will be at the forefront of efforts to build face-to-face, person-to-person relationships of trust and mutual respect with those from different religious traditions and backgrounds.

Campaign Partners

logos

Sign the Pledge:

Sign this pledge at https://ing.org/pledge/

Our strength as a nation comes from the ability to hold true to our own faith and values while defending the religious freedom of our neighbors. I pledge to get to know my fellow Americans of all traditions and systems of belief and to share my own. Moreover, I will speak out against hatred and misinformation against others when I encounter it.

Submit an Event:

  • :

Call to Action for Organizations

Through the facilitation of partner organizations, congregations, communities, and individuals will join the campaign by:

  1. Signing, sharing, and encouraging others to sign a pledge to stand up to all forms of hatred and bigotry.
  2. Inviting other communities from different religious and cultural backgrounds to a scheduled worship service or prayer at your own place of worship. See Appendix I for practical tips, Appendix II for template email invitations and Appendix III for a sample sermon.
  3. Help us publicize and support your event by submitting it to the Community Events Calendar which will be posted at https://ing.org/multifaithevents/; this also helps us track the impact that this campaign is having nationwide. Events will also be publicized through the Know Your Neighbor website and Facebook page and through partner organizations’ social media accounts, including ING’s Facebook page and Twitter account.
  4. Convening new events, or inviting people to existing events that are not congregational worship, which facilitate encounter and engagement across and between communities. See Appendix IV for suggested topics of interfaith panel presentations from ING; scripts and resource packets for each of these topics are available by contacting ING (henry@ing.org). Appendix V lists a selection of other organizations’ resources for planning interfaith events and Appendix VI lists some other event suggestions.
  5. Publicizing these events within and outside your own community, using the hashtags #IAmYourNeighbor and #HateEndsWithMe on social media and inspiring others to attend future events or convene their own. See Appendix VII for sample social media posts and graphics which you can use.
  6. Organizing a small-scale event as an individual and inviting neighbors and colleagues. Call to Action for Individuals lists some suggestions, tips, and considerations for organizing events; these were suggested by community members at visioning meetings in December 2015 and February 2016 in the Bay Area, CA.

Call to Action for Individuals

  • Neighbors: Inviting your local neighbors to an informal social gathering can be a great way to begin building new relationships of trust, and strengthen existing relationships. You could invite neighbors to come to your house to celebrate your holiday with you, asking them to perhaps bring a can of food to donate to the local food bank, and enjoying special foods that they may well be familiar with – such as pecan pie, pizza, donuts, cookies. People are very curious to learn about new cultures and religions, and while they most likely won’t ask hostile questions, they may ask for your views on a host of issues. For Muslims, you may want to refer to online resources like ING’s Answers to 100+ Frequently Asked Questions . An alternative to an holiday party could be a family-friendly games day (or night) with a selection of board games, word games, and physical activities.
  • Framing: Remind people that you are an individual practitioner of your faith tradition, and that while you will be happy to speak about what your faith gives you and why it’s an important part of your identity, you cannot speak on behalf of anyone else and you certainly do not represent your entire community. Remind people that you are not a scholar or an “expert”, and that you are speaking from your own personal experience of how you live your faith and identity in your local area. Making a local connection helps to remind people that you part of the same community as them, and you are likely as involved in local politics and social life as they are.
  • Connection: To the extent that you’re comfortable doing so, try to make connections based on any and all aspects of your identity. Emphasize that as well as being a practicing member of your religious community, you are a mother/father, soccer player, baseball fan, avid reader, coffee drinker, baker, etc. Making a person-to-person connection on a human level makes it easier for people to empathize.
  • Language: Try to avoid using foreign words which may be unknown or even off-putting. For example, for Muslims refer to ‘God’ rather than ‘Allah’ and if you use non-English phrases in conversation, explain them. Avoid using language that reinforces a binary narrative of “us” and “them” or “we” and “you”. Emphasize your shared identity as Americans as your primary identity; you may be American-Muslims, American-Hindus, or American-Jews, but first and foremost you are Americans.
  • Responding to Questions: We advise individuals who have not received training against organizing formal panels or presentations, because responding to complex and sometimes loaded questions in a nuanced and effective way can be difficult without training and experience. We encourage you to consult online resources such as IING’s Answers to 100+ Frequently Asked Questions about Islam and Muslims to be better able to respond to questions which your neighbors or other community members might ask you if you set up a table at a library, mall, or community center with a sign saying “Meet a Muslim” or “Ask Me Anything”. You could offer coffee and donuts to passersby and engage them in conversation.

Training for Interfaith Work

We recognize that different communities and individuals have different levels and types of knowledge, skills, and opportunities to connect with those of other religious and cultural backgrounds. We want to encourage harder-to-reach audiences who may have never intentionally engaged with others in this way to do so, and to build their capacity through training and support (level 1.0, capacity-building). Audiences who are ready to engage with individuals and communities from different backgrounds, such as through inviting clergy from another tradition to an informal coffee-hour after a service, will be supported to do so (level 2.0, engagement). Those who are ready to collaborate more intentionally or on a deeper or wider level, such as through congregation twinning, will be equipped to do so (level 3.0, collaboration).

More information is forthcoming. In the meantime, write to Henry@ing.org for training requests.

Need and Opportunity

People who regularly attend a place of worship are often more deeply rooted in their community and have greater social capital and larger, stronger in-person social networks than those who do not. At the same time, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once remarked, Sunday morning can often be “the most segregated hour in this nation”: a number of different communities and congregations may be physically located in the same neighborhood or even on the same block, but rarely do congregants and worshippers have the opportunity, resources, or capacity to connect with each other in meaningful and authentic ways. It is human nature to mistrust the unknown. Our communities are only as strong as the connections we have, the connections we make, and the connections we build. It is not enough to engage with others in our communities only in crisis situations when there is a need to respond to an immediate threat. Instead, we need to intentionally build the strength and capacity of our communities on an institutional and organizational level – which begins when we get to know our neighbors.

The Know Your Neighbor: Multifaith Encounters campaign from ING will encourage and equip individuals, communities, and congregations to stand up to all forms of hatred and bigotry by engaging with their neighbors in simple, practical ways, and affirming that #IAmYourNeighbor and #HateEndsWithMe.

Defining and Understanding the Scope of the Campaign

Terms like interfaith, multi-faith, and interreligious are often used interchangeably, and may be understood differently in different contexts or communities. The Know Your Neighbor: Multifaith Encounters campaign believes that interfaith, multi-faith, or interreligious dialogue or action means being rooted in your own identity, tradition, and culture whilst having the knowledge, skills, and opportunities to learn from and about others in meaningful and impactful ways. Except for the campaign’s title, you are encouraged to use whichever term your own community is most comfortable or familiar with.

Similarly, the terms diversity and pluralism can have different connotations and meaning in different communities. According to Harvard scholar of religion Diana Eck: ‘Diversity is just plurality, plain and simple – splendid, colorful, perhaps threatening. Pluralism is the engagement that creates a common society from all that plurality’. Interfaith Youth Core Founder Eboo Patel expands on this and suggests that a helpful framing could be principled pluralism: ‘Principled pluralism encourages that engagement, but respects the desire of some groups to respectfully limit it, in harmony with deeply held views on matters of faith’. It is important for members of your community or congregation to understand that they are invited and encouraged to bring the fullness of their own identity to the Know Your Neighbor: Multifaith Encounters campaign. This project is not about watering-down fundamental beliefs, values, and practices of individuals and communities, but about creating platforms and opportunities for people to learn from and about themselves and each other in safe and productive ways.

IFYC has a helpful resource on Identifying a Theology or Ethic of Interfaith Cooperation which speaks to this idea: https://www.ifyc.org/sites/default/files/u4/Theology%20Resource.pdf. Depending on the nature of your own community, individuals may have heard of documents like Nostra Aetate which opened the Catholic Church to dialogue with Jewish communities in particular, and other communities more broadly (“In our time, when day by day mankind is being drawn closer together, and the ties between different peoples are becoming stronger, the Church examines more closely her relationship to non-Christian religions. In her task of promoting unity and love among men, indeed among nations, she considers above all in this declaration what men have in common and what draws them to fellowship.”); or the more recent document A Common Word Between Us and You which reaffirmed the need for positive relationships and dialogue between Muslims and Christians (“Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world.”)

Freedom of speech and religion are enshrined and affirmed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The so-called Golden Rule, also called the ethic of reciprocity, is a moral principle of altruism found in almost all cultures and religious traditions. It is often expressed as ‘Do unto others what you would have them do unto you’.

goldenrule

Appendices: Resources

Appendix I: Practical Tips for Inviting People to Join a Scheduled Worship Service

One of the most meaningful and impactful ways to connect with your neighbors is to invite them to a scheduled worship service. Many Americans have not had an opportunity to visit a place of worship of a tradition other than their own, so an invitation will be warmly received and a great starting point for relationship-building.

Ensure that your congregants and community members know that an invitation has been made, and that those from another community may be attending an upcoming service. If you have greeters, ushers, or a building manager, remind them that you are expecting visitors who may not know the norms of your community or practice. For example, if you have separate entrances for men and women, make sure this is clear for guests so that they do not inadvertently use an incorrect entrance which could cause embarrassment; if you have communion or the sharing of blessed food and drink during your service, be explicit about whether and how it is appropriate for guests to participate; if parts of the service take place in a language other than English, consider providing a written or verbal translation, or an overview of the meaning and significance of what is happening.

After the service, encourage guests and congregants to engage and dialogue together over coffee, donuts, or snacks. Many communities regularly hold a coffee hour or brunch after a service, and this is a great environment in which people can get to know each other, build relationships, and ask questions to deepen their understanding of the other’s community, beliefs, and practices.

    Places of worship have services at different times of the day and week. As a guide:

  • Islam: Jummah prayers are typically held at lunchtime on a Friday. If the community is large, there may be two services, one after the other.
  • Judaism: Shabbat services may be held on Friday night or Saturday morning, depending on the denomination.
  • Christianity: Church worship services take place at various times on a Sunday, typically in the morning and sometimes in the early evening. Some churches have Saturday evening services also.
  • Hinduism: Many Hindu communities do not have congregational services on a particular day of the week, but rather encourage individual practice throughout the week, with communal services to mark special celebrations and events at various times of the year.
  • Sikhism: Similarly, many Sikh communities encourage individual practice throughout the week rather than communal worship on a particular day. Nonetheless, many Gurdwaras have highest attendance on Sunday.
  • Buddhism: Different Buddhist denominations have different schedules of practice. Many American Buddhist communities have communal services on Sunday.

Appendix II: Template Email Invitations

For Coalition Members to Encourage Affiliated Congregations to Respond to the Call to Action

Dear AFFILIATED CONGREGATIONS/ORGANIZATIONS,

Our organization recently joined the Know Your Neighbor: Multifaith Encounters campaign created by Islamic Networks Group (ING) to stand up to all forms of hatred and bigotry by encouraging and convening events at which people from different religious traditions and cultures can meet for dialogue, relationship-building, and fellowship. The campaign encourages people to demonstrate that #HateEndsWithMe and affirm that #IAmYourNeighbor. In the current climate of fear, mistrust, and bigotry we believe that this is a vital message to spread, and that our communities will be stronger when we know our neighbors.

We are encouraging all our affiliated congregations/organizations to respond to the call to action by:

  1. Signing, sharing, and encouraging others to sign a pledge to stand up to all forms of hatred and bigotry and join the Interfaith Allies movement at www.ing.org/pledge
  2. Inviting other communities from different religious backgrounds to a scheduled worship service or prayer at your own place of worship.
  3. Convening new events, or inviting people to other existing events that your congregation/organization is organizing.
  4. Publicizing these events within and outside your own community, using the hashtag #IAmYourNeighbor or #HateEndsWithMe on social media and inspiring others to attend future events or convene their own.

Additional information, including practical tips and resources, is available at www.ing.org/multifaithencounters.
I hope you will join us in declaring that #HateEndsWithMe and affirming that #IAmYourNeighbor, and we look forward to hearing about your events!

Sincerely, NAME

For Congregations Inviting People to Join a Scheduled Worship Service

Dear Neighbors,

On behalf of CONGREGATION, I would like to personally invite you to join us for an upcoming worship service and the coffee hour that follows. Here at NAME OF CONGREGATION, we believe that it is vital to get to know our neighbors, particularly those from other religious traditions and cultures, to learn from and about each other and be able to better support each other. In the current climate of fear, mistrust, and bigotry, we are supporting a campaign created by Islamic Networks Group (ING) called Know Your Neighbor: Multifaith Encounters. Through this campaign, we hope to demonstrate that our community will be stronger when we know our neighbors, when we stand up to proclaim that #HateEndsWithMe and that #IAmYourNeighbor.

The service begins at TIME, and we are located at ADDRESS. The service will last approximately DURATION, after which we will have an informal coffee hour and meet-and-greet.

Please let me know if you and other members of your community are able to join us. We would be delighted to host you.

Sincerely,
NAME

Appendix III: Sample Sermon

Jesus for Muslims: A Sermon Preached by Rev. Dr. Rebecca Irelan to Willow Glen United Methodist Church, San Jose, CA on January 17, 2016 http://www.patheos.com/blogs/muslimahnextdoor/2016/01/jesus-for-muslims-a-sermon-by-rev-dr-rebecca-irelan/

Appendix IV: ING Suggested Topics for Interfaith Panel Presentations

livingthefaith

Multi-Faith Panel: Living the Faith

How do adherents of different religions implement and live their beliefs, practices, and values in the busy life they lead? In this panel discussion, panelists answer this question, drawing on their understanding and experiences of their own community. Among the topics addressed are how religions influence everyday life, how people make room in their daily schedule for the demands of their religion, and how they negotiate possible tensions between religious practice and their working and living environment.

sharedvalues

Multi-Faith Panel: Shared Values Among Faiths

Religions and cultures differ, but all the major world religions share key values. In this panel discussion, panelists discuss the human and ethical values they share with one another. This panel illustrates the possibility, and indeed the necessity, for diverse religions to join together in a common effort for a more harmonious and peaceful world.

religionextremism

Multi-Faith Panel: Religion and Extremism

Various forms of fundamentalism and extremism pose a problem in all religious traditions and communities. In this panel presentation, panelists discuss the forms that extremism and fundamentalism take in their traditions and how their communities meet the challenge posed by such distortions of their beliefs.

religionpluralism

Multi-Faith Panel: Religion and Pluralism

How do different religions view the beliefs and practices of other traditions? Is adherence to one religious tradition compatible with respect for the many other religious traditions and convictions in our world? In this panel discussion, representatives of the major world religions address these questions and explain how each of their traditions is able to adhere to its convictions while taking a positive and respectful stance toward the diverse beliefs of others.

churchandstate

Multi-Faith Panel: Separation of Church and State

The relations between religious institutions and state power have been a source of controversy and conflict throughout human history. In this panel discussion, panelists discuss the different ways that their religious community has interacted with the state in history and in today’s world, demonstrating that all traditions can respect the independence and impartiality of government and that a secular state need not be a threat to religion.

religionenvironment

Multi-Faith Panel: Religion and Environmental Concerns

Environmental degradation and climate change have become major global concerns that threaten our existence as we know it on this planet. In this panel presentation, panelists discuss their religion’s teachings about conservation and environmental preservation. While environmental issues are a new concern in the form they present themselves today, religious traditions have long addressed the question of how humanity relates to and interacts with the environment.

muslimjew

Muslim-Jewish Relations in the U.S. – Living in the Shadow of the Middle East Conflict

The purpose of this panel is to change the paradigm of Jewish-Muslim American conversations away from the Middle East conflict towards common interests as Americans, addressing topics such as anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and maintaining a religious identity as two of the largest religious minorities in the country.

Appendix V: Other Organizations’ Resources for Planning Interfaith Events

Additional resources are available on the Know Your Neighbor website.

Religions for Peace USA
Interfaith Dialogue Dinner Guide – A Seat at the Table
http://knowyourneighbor.us/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/A-Seat-at-the-Table-Discussion-Guide.pdf

Interfaith Youth Core
How to Hold a Speedfaithing Event
http://knowyourneighbor.us/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Speedfaithing-Toolkit.pdf

3FF (Three Faiths Forum)
Interfaith Rules and Tools
http://www.3ff.org.uk/resources/rules-and-tools.php

Appendix VI: Event Suggestions – Congregations

  • Organize a book club around a piece of fiction or non-fiction which explores some aspects of faith, values, culture, or identity. You could read and discuss The Faith Club by Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver, and Priscilla Warner, which explores Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and the need for dialogue and collaboration between those of all faiths, from the perspective of three women.
  • Organize a social gathering centered around foods from different countries and cultures. Connect with the diversity of your community whilst savoring a diversity of cuisines!
  • Invite local Muslim and non-Muslim communities, congregations, or organizations to collaborate on a public art project like a mural or co-organize an open mic or spoken word poetry event.
  • Organize a picnic in a park or public space and invite local Muslim and non-Muslim groups. You could plan family-friendly sports events and games, or simply get together to meet and talk.
  • Celebrate the multiple significances of certain holidays. For example, Mary is held in high esteem both by Christians and Muslims. When some Christians are celebrating Feasts such as the Immaculate Conception, what are the similarities between and differences with how Muslims understand Mary?
  • Participate in or organize a shared service project that intentionally includes people from other faiths and cultures. Is there a local Habitat for Humanity project you could attend, or a county- or state-wide initiative you could participate in such as a beach clean-up?
  • Ask your favorite local restaurant if they would consider serving kosher or halal food one evening, and invite your friends and neighbors to dine together.


Appendix VII: Sample Social Media Posts

Forthcoming