Working for a Muslim organization enables me to both honor my Christian faith and my American citizenship. As American-Muslims continue to face Islamophobic rhetoric and increased bigotry and discriminatory policies from our President, I want to share why a woman raised in Bible Belt Florida ended up in a career standing alongside the Muslim community.
It started in college, when I learned about Dietrich Bonhoeffer. As a Lutheran priest in Nazi Germany, he dedicated his career, and ultimately his life, to standing against the mistreatment and murder of European Jews. He publicly condemned the actions and rhetoric of Hitler as it was inconsistent with his religious convictions of equality and acceptance.
In Bonhoeffer, I discovered the type of Christian I hoped to be. I dedicated myself then to standing alongside the persecuted, no matter what their ethnicity or faith tradition may be. Living out my faith as embodied by Bonhoeffer today in the United States means standing up for the religious freedom of all Americans, despite faith or ethnicity.
Americans who are Muslim face increasing hate crimes and rhetoric since the campaign and election of President Trump, including one of his first actions in office enacting a “Muslim ban” on immigrants and refugees from certain Muslim-majority countries. Any policies discriminating by religious identity violate not only our Constitution, but our values as Americans and should offend us all despite our own religious backgrounds.
Speaking out against anti-Muslim bigotry sits at the core of what it means for me to be a Christian. I find a radical message of solidarity, love and inclusion essential to Christianity and I cannot think of anything more Christ-like than standing with those who are being persecuted in our society.
Furthermore, protecting religious freedom is my patriotic duty, especially since my own ancestors were among those who boarded the Mayflower in 1620 in pursuit of religious freedom. The founders of our nation risked their lives, abandoned their property and left their friends and family behind so that they and their children could practice the religion of their choosing. They refused to be told how to pray and enshrined the freedom to exercise religious beliefs in our Constitution.
There is nothing more American than the right to practice our religious beliefs freely, and I’m committed to defending this freedom for all who call this country their home, today, tomorrow and onwards.
Some politicians and pundits advocate throwing our nation’s religious freedom protections to the wind in the name of national security measures. That’s not just ethically wrong: it’s bad policy. We’re stronger when we stand together as a nation of all faiths and backgrounds. Further, our national security should be rooted in evidence, rather than singling out an entire group of people based on their country of origin, skin color, or faith.
My passion for interfaith work and standing alongside the Muslim community has always been difficult for me to express, as people tend to give me strange looks and ask if my working for a Muslim organizations means that I’ve converted to Islam. As the prejudice against the Muslim American community grows, the simpler it becomes for me to explain why I am passionate about engaging in interfaith work.
As I have developed strong relationships with Americans who are Muslim, it has been increasingly difficult to rationalize the amount of ignorance and hate these loving individuals have endured, as I have been met with nothing but love, patience and hospitality by the Muslim community. I cannot see myself working for any other cause that is more in line with my values, both as a Christian and as an American.
I hope my fellow Christians and Americans will take my testimony as a call to action in for their own communities. I’m not suggesting you apply to work for a Muslim organization – although I highly recommend it! – I’m asking you to join me in solidarity as simply as setting up an event between your church and a local mosque, create friendships across faith traditions or learn how to be an ally to the Muslim community.
It’s an incredibly difficult time to be an American who is Muslim right now, and I pray my fellow Christians will see this and act accordingly.
To learn more about Islamic Networks Group, visit: https://ing.org/
For ways to help Muslim, Arab, and South Asian Americans and Refugees, visit: http://unitedagainstmuslimban.com
For ways to be an ally to Muslim Community, visit: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/altmuslim/10-ways-effective-ally-muslim-community/
Kate Chance is the interfaith coordinator of Islamic Networks Group (ING), a national non-profit with affiliates in 20 states that counter prejudice and discrimination against American Muslims by teaching about their traditions and contributions in the context of America’s history and cultural diversity, while building relations between American Muslims and other groups. Kate has a Master’s Degree in The Study of Religion from the University of Oxford, and BA in Psychology, Philosophy and Religion from Flagler College.