RELIGION
12/24/2015 04:05 pm ET Updated Dec 28, 2015

24,000 Sign Letter Of 'Radical Love' In Support Of American Muslims

"We must not allow fear to undermine the values that stand at the very core of who we are as faith leaders and Americans."
New York-based clergy and interfaith activists delivered the letter of support to the Muslim Community Network on Christmas E
Esther Merono
New York-based clergy and interfaith activists delivered the letter of support to the Muslim Community Network on Christmas Eve, which this year also falls on the Prophet Muhammad's birthday.

More than 24,000 people have signed a letter of support for America's Muslim communities, promising to build a "circle of protection" to defend them from hate and violence.

The "radical love letter," which includes 7,000 signatures from clergy members, was hand-delivered on Thursday to Muslim leaders at the Muslim Community Network in New York City.

"God is not Muslim, God is not Christian, God is not Jewish; God is love. Love compels us to stand with our Muslim family, to have their backs. When they come for our Muslim family, they come for all of us," said the Rev. Jacqui Lewis, Senior Minister of New York's Middle Collegiate Church, while delivering the letter.

“This is a singular moment in time," she continued. "Massacres and mayhem, vitriol and violence like I have never witnessed in my lifetime, all in the name of God. This is a singular moment in time, when good people of every faith join their voices in one freedom song: We will not stand by while our Muslim brothers and sisters -- our policewomen, doctors, teachers and neighbors -- are targeted with hatred because of the violent actions of a few."

The letter, which was organized by the Presbyterian Church (USA)-affiliated Auburn Seminary, comes amid increasing violence and threats against Muslims across the country. Since the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, The Huffington Post has documented at least 73 incidents targeted at Muslims in the U.S. and Canada that have ranged from armed protests outside mosques to attacks on Muslim families' homes. In one incident, a woman wearing a hijab in Florida was shot at and nearly run off the road while leaving her local mosque. 

The date of delivery has a special significance for Christians and some Muslims -- the Prophet Muhammad's birthday, which follows the lunar Islamic calendar, falls on Christmas Eve this year.

“This is confirmation that we are not alone in the struggle to reclaim our country, to bring it back to the country that it has always been -- loving and warm -- and that the Statue of Liberty stands out there to welcome all," said Debbie Almontaser, president of the Muslim Community Network, when she received the letter. “I want to thank you very much on behalf of the American Muslim community, who will see this as a gesture of love and respect and admiration."

Read the letter, which will also be distributed to Muslim communities in Los Angeles, Denver, Atlanta, Detroit, Orlando and San Francisco, below.

TO: OUR MUSLIM BROTHERS AND SISTERS

America is not America without Muslims. As people of faith and moral conscience, we promise to defend our Muslim brothers and sisters from attack, to speak up when they are maligned, and to support them with our voices, our actions, and our bodies.

Why is this important?

In the famous words of German anti-Nazi Lutheran pastor and theologian Martin Niemoller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Today, they are coming for Muslim Americans. And when they come for any member of our community, they come for all of us.

As we watch the rising tide of anti-Muslim sentiment in our nation, as we listen to preposterous hate speech and rhetoric from political candidates -- particularly Mr. Trump -- our hearts are cracked wide open.

Even more alarming than the rantings of a single politician are the thousands cheering on bigotry.

People are afraid and concerned for their safety. However, responding to fear with hatred diminishes us all - both in spirit and safety. We must not allow fear to undermine the values that stand at the very core of who we are as faith leaders and Americans.

Every time there is a surge in anti-Muslim speech, there is a corresponding spike in acts of hate and acts of violence against Americans who are Muslim, Sikh, Arab, and South Asian.

You are our neighbors and our doctors, our local merchants and our school board presidents. We know you as restaurant owners and soccer coaches, as policewomen and public officials. We know you as mothers and fathers and caregivers, and as allies and colleagues in movements for justice. You are us.

We know you as our brothers and our sisters. America is not America without you.

We are speaking out, and we have your back, friends. We commit to building a circle of protection around you; we are standing with you.

We love you, and we pledge to show our love in every corner of our lives. May we walk hand in hand into a future where racism, hate, and violence are relics of the past, where differences are celebrated, and our children inherit our joy.

نحن نقف بجانبكم (We stand by you.) | نحن نساندكم (We support you.)

Signed:

Valarie Kaur
Linda Sarsour
Rabbi Stephanie Kolin
Rev. Dr. Peter Heltzel
Rev. Brian McLaren
Rev. Dr. Jacqui J. Lewis
Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III
Bishop Gene Robinson,
Lisa Sharon Harper
Rev. Dr. William Barber II
Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews
Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock
Rabbi Sharon Brous
Sr. Simone Campbell

Editor's note: Former HuffPost Executive Editor of Global Spirituality and Religion helped organized the letter campaign, and is the Senior Vice President for Public Engagement at Auburn Seminary.

Also on HuffPost:

CONVERSATIONS