National Sikh Coalition Calls for Justice following Murder of George Floyd

National Sikh Coalition Calls for Justice following Murder of George Floyd

The following is an excerpt from a June 1, 2020 statement released by the New York City-based Sikh Coalition:

In the week since the murder of 46-year old George Floyd and the arrest of Minneapolis police officer  Derek Chauvin, the Sikh Coalition has joined demands for a completely thorough and transparent investigation into the police misconduct involved in the death of Mr. Floyd and signed onto calls for new federal legislation to increase transparency and thwart police abuse. We also echo the anger felt by millions of Americans across the nation.

Systemic anti-Black racism within law enforcement and throughout the United States contributes directly to the deaths of unarmed Black people. This deadly problem has to change and the Sikh community must stand in unequivocal solidarity with Black Americans in our shared struggle to combat bigotry, racism, and hate.

The Black community has led the civil rights movement and paved the path for all minorities in this country, including Sikh Americans. We must continue to support efforts to ensure justice, including ongoing demands for complete transparency and accountability in the murder of George Floyd and countless others who have been killed as a result of police brutality. We must address the anti-Black sentiments within our own community by vocalizing that Black Lives Matter. We must stand and act in solidarity. Here is a guide on how to be an ally.

There are a myriad of exceptional frontline organizations you can support and actions that you can take to specifically demand justice and show solidarity in response to George Floyd’s case. For more information on some of those organizations or direct action initiatives, click here.

As always, the Sikh Coalition urges you to practice your faith fearlessly.

Michigan Roundtable Calls for Justice for African Americans slain by Police Brutality

The following is a June 1, 2020 statement from the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion:

The Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion mourns the brutal and merciless murders of Ahmaud Arbrey, Breonna Taylor, and the most recent of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

While the tragic killing connects us to all the Black people who have been murdered since this country was founded, including Eric Garner, Philando Castillo, Shatina Grady, Aiyana Jones, Michael Brown, and Travon Martin, it has happened so often across America that it leaves our stomachs turning in knots removing the myth that we are living in a post-racial society. We are haunted by this ugly reality — We will not accept this ugly reality; we are determined to fight, to transform, this ugly reality. In our efforts to understand what seems to be an unending reality, we acknowledge:
• The murder of George Floyd was first plotted hundreds of years ago beginning with how settlers treated this lands’ Indigenous People and then in the kidnapping of Africans brought here as slaves.
• The plan to murder George Floyd was put in place when we embedded white supremacist beliefs into our institutions, governments, court rulings, and policies.
• George Floyd’s death was made possible by the unchecked racism of an officer and three accomplices, the racism within the Minneapolis Police Department, and the racism dwelling in every dimension of our lives.
• The death of Black Americans at the hands of police is an extension of this racism in the very air we breathe, suffocating life.
• The unique challenge faced by law enforcement as they seek to address the inevitable brutality perpetrated by their officers along with the racism embedded in the recruiting, training, and supervision of officers stamped in practice and procedures.

Mindful of this deep and pervasive racism and inspired by our mission statement to “empower individuals to transform communities and the workplace to overcome racism, discrimination, systemic inequities, and institutional and inherent bias,” we call for:

• Learning about this history of racism and present-day racial inequities;
• Listening to your colleagues and neighbors who are of different racial backgrounds and participating in community and workplace conversations as you become accountable for a change in your thinking and behavior;
• Encouraging your local law enforcement departments to become part of the Detroit Metro ALPACT (Advocates & Leaders for Police and Community Trust), a coalition of law enforcement and community members challenging the very practices attacking the lives of Black and Brown people; Serving as a catalyst for change, we develop, organize, and empower individuals and communities to advance equity and opportunity for all.

  • Ending repressive use of force by police and shifting funding priorities towards social justice restorative practices for community safety; and,
  • Going beyond traditional diversity and inclusion training to transform not only the organizations you are a part of, but also the communities where you work and live so that Black people and other People of Color are seen as equal and treated with the justice they deserve.
  • We end this statement with a quote from Mark Fancher, staff attorney at ACLU of Michigan:
  • The solution will not be found in new policies and training. Ultimately, things will change only when a law enforcement culture deeply rooted in racism and violence changes. Only those in the law enforcement community can make that happen. It will happen only when every cop from the lowest-ranking patrol officers to the highest-ranking administrators become committed to purging from their ranks those who believe dark skin equals probable cause for searches, arrests, and brutality.
  • We continue on the journey to identify, confront, and end systemic racism with you.

Resilience and Responsibility in the Time of the Corona Virus

Resilience and Responsibility in the Time of the Corona Virus

By IFLC Vice Chairman Robert Bruttell

I have been struck these last six months or so by the electron microscope image of the Corona Virus that causes COVID 19. I would say that bluish image with its red spikes projecting around the sphere, those crowns that give it its name, is pretty, almost beautiful. It is hard to think of that lovely image as the death star that is wreaking keening and grief throughout the world as those of us privileged enough, isolate ourselves at home.

Metropolitan Detroit has not been spared. Communities of Faith have not been spared. And it is a plague of biblical proportions for the African American community.

All faith groups share some version of the requirement to care for the stranger and love our neighbor. In the Christian scriptures, Jesus PBUH is asked who is my neighbor and he tells the story of the man who is robbed and beaten and left for dead on the Jericho Road. It is the story of the good Samaritan who stops and cares for this bloodied Jew taking him to safe lodging where he pays for his continued care. Today, we who hear this story, miss its intensity. Jews and Samaritans hated one another. They had rival concepts of who God is and how God is present in the world. Each was aware that Jews and Samaritans had desecrated each other’s temples and so were actively hostile to one another. And so Jesus turns the table on them and says your enemy, the Samaritan in this story, knows who his neighbor is. Your neighbor is anyone who needs your care.

It almost seems like a contradiction in terms for faith communities to be isolated in their homes. Freedom of Assembly found in the First Amendment of the Constitution was instituted as much for religious as for political reasons. Faith communities have not been allowed for good reasons to gather in places of worship for a couple of months now. It is in that gathering that people of faith gain strength and reinforce the faith of others. It is in those settings where people of faith hear their respective scriptures and gain the courage to live the difficult ethics that are prescribed. Nevertheless, something new is required of us. We must be resilient and find an even deeper version of the faiths we profess.

All of our faith traditions have similar teachings. Our neighbor is anyone who needs our care. Our neighbor is not just the people we know and love. Our neighbor is the stranger who comes into our midst. Our neighbor is even the one whom we think of as our enemy.

During our worship rituals, we have been saying that we love all mankind. Yet our past performance as people of faith is being examined now and what is being revealed to us is not pretty. Despite our self-congratulatory rhetoric, we have segregated ourselves. We have not cared for the stranger. Resources, public goods like good education, job opportunities and health care, even safe, affordable water, have gone to certain groups while ignoring those left battered and lying in the ditch. As a result people of color, black people, brown people, red people, are dying in the thousands leaving a trail of tears. Our moral standing as people of faith is in question.

Additionally, some are selfishly considering “re-opening” our communities. There are even some cocky individuals in our communities, who are brandishing intimidating weapons and epic selfishness to claim it is their right to open now because they want their freedom while ignoring how threatening and demonstrably dangerous this is for those who have been left most vulnerable.

Governor Whitmer has created a task force to look into the devastatingly deleterious effects of this pandemic on people of color. Like 1968 when the President of the United States created the Kerner Commission to study why civil unrest had rocked cities nationwide, we do not need to wait for all the details. We know that we have created two Americas, one white and one black and brown. We know and have known that segregation is toxic.

The question is:

Do we have sufficient faith to recognize our individual and social responsibility? Are we resilient enough to renew our faith and do something about it now?

We welcome to open this conversation with you. Please leave your comments and opinions in the comment section below.

Detroit Water and Sewerage Department Establishes hotline to help Detroiters turn water back on.

Credit: Curt Merlo

The following message is from Elin Warn Betanzo, founder of Safe Water Engineering, LLC about water restorations in Detroit.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) needs help to keep pushing out their number to anyone in Detroit who lacks water service.

Call Wayne Metro at 313-386-9727 to get the water turned on.

DWSD now has the call center capacity and the plumbers they need to get the water turned on, but the calls have slowed down. They need help finding occupied homes without water. Please share far and wide, especially if you personally know of homes without water.  Here is an update you with the latest information that I have from DWSD about water restorations in Detroit:

As of March 30, DWSD completed over two rounds distributing information to homes without water service that may be occupied. The first was for homes where service was shut off after April 2019. The second round, started early this week, reached out to about 5000 more homes where they have a record of accounts being shut off in the past. They say that most of these homes are vacant or do not look livable. They post data updates most days on this website

I still have some questions about the data, but they are finally making an effort to provide some transparency about this process. While this isn’t perfect, it is major progress.

While they had a huge influx of calls when they first announced the program, the calls have slowed down. They are not continuing to get an influx of new calls with the new notices about the ability to get the water turned back on. Now that they’ve brought on more plumbers they are confident they can get the water on by next week for those homes already in their work order system.

They want to turn water on for more people, but they can’t find them.

They also recognize that two weeks is too long to wait for water service. However, they still don’t have a clear path for systematically addressing the need for emergency water delivery and/or water stations. Of course, the city is struggling with all aspects or coronavirus response and every day fewer staff are available to work as they get ill or are quarantined. 

Elin Warn Betanzo
Safe Water Engineering, LLC

Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe gives $1M in coronavirus aid to Jackson small businesses

According to Crain’s Business, Consumer’s Energy CEO Patti Poppe and her husband Eric are personally donating $1 million to small businesses across Jackson County, in hopes of helping them avoid going out of business during the outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Poppe last October was the recipient of the IFLC visionary leadership award  at IFLC’s annual awards dinner.

To read more about this gift, click here.

Resilience and Responsibility in the Time of the Corona Virus

Faith in the Face of COVID-19

IFLC Newsletter editor Stacy Gittleman ponders the far-reaching consequences COVID-19 will have on the way we gather and pray.

Judaism is a religion filled with kisses.

From a young age, we teach our children as they walk through a doorway to kiss a mezuzah, a cylindrical vessel nailed to our doorposts that contain central texts from the Torah.

When we drop a prayer book, it is customary to give the book a kiss and often, we put our lips to our prayer books as we finish praying.

Enter most Jewish synagogues or temples on a Saturday morning and you will see the ritual of the Torah processional. The start and end of the Torah service are marked by walking the dressed Torah around the sanctuary. To show reverence and respect to Judaism’s most precious possession, it is traditional to touch the Torah with one’s fingertips, a prayer book or a prayer shawl, and then bring that touch to your lips. Full of pomp and circumstance, the processional is a high point in the morning service, with singing and chanting. Often, congregants take a moment to greet their friends standing nearby.

These are rituals that are done week after week, generation after generation. Also, there are the warm hugs, handshakes, and kisses on the cheek as we greet our friends, something that goes on in all our houses of worship.

But last week, when I attended Shabbat services at my synagogue, things were different. Instead of handshakes and kisses, there were the awkward fist or elbow bumps. Our ushers squirted our hands with sanitizer before handing us our prayer books. In fact, we got squirted each time we left and reentered the sanctuary.

Most striking for me was the elimination of the Torah processional. Our rabbi and lay leaders took the Torah out, sang the psalms from a distance from the rest of the congregation, and placed the open scroll on the table for the weekly reading. The elimination of this ritual may have reduced contact between congregants, but the precaution put a somber feel to Shabbat morning. We were literally taking drastic measures to keep our sanctuary a sanctuary from the Coronavirus.

As I prayed, I thought: What changes to services and rituals are taking place in the houses of worship of my Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh neighbors as we together face the threat of the COVID-19?

IFLC Vice Chairman Robert Bruttell said he was saddened at his church service, where for the first time in 50 years, there was no wine ritual.
“We also have a ritual which we call the kiss of peace,” he said. “It involves a handshake with many people in the congregation during the mass. We were encouraged to not shake hands but rather to bow to one another or to touch elbows. Some people did fist bumps. On past Sundays, I would have hugged people I know very well but not anymore. It was kind of sad.”
Just as much as we attend our synagogues, temples, mosques churches and gurdwaras to connect with the Divine, we go to be with our friends and community. Indeed, religious services and the connections we feel there can be the anecdote to isolation. In the coming weeks, it will be hard for me to refrain from giving handshakes or embraces to friends and other congregants.
That’s if there will be services at all.

While services can be and are often live-streamed in the digital age, there is no substitution for showing up and sitting with your congregation in the pews, or shoulder to shoulder on a prayer rug.
So where are we going from here?
IFLC welcomes you to write to us and tell us the changes taking place at your house of worship. How are your religious practices and rituals changing as we grapple and try to slow the spread of Coronavirus?

Let us also know if your house of worship is creating a strategy to check in with the most vulnerable members of our congregations, how you are organizing perhaps to help families who may fall ill or be quarantined with running errands, childcare, creating meal trees, etc. It may be a model for the rest of us to follow.

We welcome to open this conversation with you.
For further resources, please click on this link below provided by the CDC that offers precautions specific to faith-based organizations:

Interim Guidance: Get Your Community- and Faith-Based Organizations Ready for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Clergy are Invited to Attend Diabetes Prevention Leadership Summit

The IFLC, together with the Southeast Michigan
Hospital Collaborative
(SEMI-HC) and Greater Detroit Area Health Council (GDAHC) wants to let our
clergy from all faiths know that we care about your health and well-being.

That is why we invite you to attend the
Diabetes Prevention
Leadership Summit as a faith leader representative.
  Tuesday, March 24th at
the Federal Reserve Bank at 1600 E, Warren in Detroit from 8:00 am to 1:00 p.m.

The Summit is an opportunity to join with other
leaders from healthcare, employers and faith and community-based organizations
to address the challenge of preventing diabetes and
promoting the effective Diabetes Prevention

Though attendance is by invitation only to area
clergy, it is the hope of (SEMI-HC), the GDAHC  and IFLC that
clergy who participate can then go back to their congregations with a wealth of
knowledge about the importance of preventing chronic diseases such as diabetes
and set an example for their congregants on the importance of taking care of
the whole self: body and spirit.

While working long
hours and tending to the needs of their congregants, clergy often neglect their
own health. Working in ministry is stressful and not finding the time to eat
right and exercise takes a toll.

2019 Clergy Well-Being Report Summary

The declining health of clergy has been studied and documented. For example, a 2019 Wespath survey of 1,200 Methodist clergy found that 81 percent are overweight or obese, up from 78 in 2012. But the good news is that the survey concluded that Methodist clergy are getting more exercise: 4.75 hours each week, that’s more than the average American, who only exercise 2.75 hours weekly.

Another decade-long study by the Duke’s Clergy Health Initiative (CHI) that focused on southern pastors found that an increasing number of this population suffers from diabetes, arthritis, asthma, heart disease, and other chronic conditions. But these ailments are not limited to Methodist pastors and can be found in clergy populations of all faiths.

“Faith leaders, by
their nature … tend to neglect their own health as they put everyone else’s
needs ahead of their own,” said Lisa Mason, GDAHC’s vice president for program
partnerships. “What more powerful way is there to lead their faith congregation
members than to set the example and lead the way?  By enrolling in a Diabetes Prevention
Workshop, we hope their faith community members will be inspired to do the same
for themselves.”

By attending the Summit, clergy can go back to their
congregations to help raise awareness
 about prediabetes and the
national Diabetes Prevention Program that’s
been proven to work. The Diabetes Prevention
Resource Center
 can help people understand what prediabetes is,
how to find out if they have it and what to do about if they do have it.

There is no cost but clergy must register by clicking this link. Breakfast and lunch will be served.