IFLC Commentaries and position statements

May 26, 2022

MMCC and its Interfaith Partners Condemn the Shooting in Buffalo

As we recoil from the vicious hate crime in which ten innocent African Americans were  murdered, we commit our communities to uniting to fight ideologies of hatred that threaten all of  us and threaten the very fabric of the diversity of the United States of America. Those who  would want us to disappear would like nothing more than for us to be divided and at war with  each other. Instead, as Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Christians, and African Americans we declare  that we are proud of who we are, and along with the majority of Americans of any color and  ethnicity, we will not let “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave” be replaced by a  xenophobic, racist, Islamophobic, antisemitic and Hinduphobic paranoid subset who do not  understand what America is all about. We stand together; we have each other’s backs; We are  committed to examine and eliminate the racism dwelling in people and institutions and societies  and we will strive to uplift one another. Through our diverse narratives and histories, we come  together to protect not only our communities but the very essence of our country. The latest  tragedy involving a school shooting in Texas reminds us that we have much work to do, but we  should all comfort each other, protect each other and find a way to work together to bring about  a more peaceful world. 

Dr. Mahmoud Al-Hadidi, President, Michigan Muslim Community Council
Phillip J Neuman, President, JCRC/AJC 
Rabbi Asher Lopatin, Executive Director, JCRC/AJC 
Narayanaswamy Sankagiri, President, HCRC 
Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, President, NAACP Detroit Branch 
Steve Spreitzer, President and CEO, Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion
Bob Bruttell, Vice Chair, InterFaith Leadership Council

April 10, 2022

The Meaning of Ramadan

Asim Khan, board member and treasurer of the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit has graciously provided this explanation of the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, which will be commemorated from the evening of April 2, 2022 until the evening of May 2, 2022.

            Ramadan, the ninth lunar month of the Islamic calendar, is the month when Muslims, the followers of Islam, fast all day from dawn till sunset. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. The other four pillars include Proclamation or Shahada, Salah or 5 daily Prayers, Zakah or 2.5% annual charity on all your savings, and Hajj or Pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime for all those who are physically and financially able. The primary objective of fasting is to attain “God Consciousness” (Taqwa) /self-discipline as ordered in the Islamic Holy Book, the Quran – “O ye who believe, Fasting is prescribed on to you as it was prescribed on to people before you (basically referring to Jews and Christians) so that you may attain piety.” (2:183). 

           Ramadan is an opportunity to cultivate good habits and leave the bad ones. It is an annual training to fulfill the character-building needed for the rest of the year. The condition of hunger gets highlighted for each fasting person leading to care and concern for the poor and hungry, helping inspire positive attitudes towards those who are less fortunate, giving charity and refraining from vain talk, wasting food and drink.

           The significance of Ramadan is that it is the month in which the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammed (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him) and is a special month of fasting, repentance, increased prayer and giving charity. In this month, the reward of any good deed is at least 70 times more than during the normal time. Fasting is an act of worship that is done only for God and God Himself said that He will reward it many times. Heaven is said to have 8 doors and one of the doors is for the fasting person through which he/she will be allowed to enter. 

           Special evening prayers called “Taraweeh” or Night Prayers are offered at all mosques apart from the daily 5 prayers. Families try to attend these special prayers as much as possible. Every day, the fast is broken at sunset with a family feast at the house and special dinners at the mosque for the whole community on weekends. Muslims invite their relatives, friends, neighbors and co-workers to come and break the fast with them.

           Another significant aspect of Ramadan is the night of “Lailatul-Qadr” or Night of Power. This is the night in which the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) via the Arch-Angel Gabriel. On this night, there is a special reward for one night of prayers equivalent to 1000 months of praying.

      The month of Ramadan ends with a festival of Eid-Ul-Fitr–a day of celebration and gratitude. Families start the day off with an early morning prayer at the mosque and spend the rest of the day visiting relatives and friends. It is comparable to either a Thanksgiving or Christmas gathering when parents host all their kids and their families. Everyone wears new clothes and gifts are exchanged. Special care is given to the needs of the children and a special donation is made to charity before the morning Eid prayer. The standard way to greet each other on the day of Eid is by saying “Eid Mubarak” or “May you have a Blessed Eid.”

March 4, 2022

Ensuring health and happiness through community values

We wonder what is the secret of happiness–the secret of a good life? Due to social media and the tabloids we are all pretty much aware that after a certain point wealth does not make us happy. We can also observe that fame does not always or even usually bring happiness. It takes a lot more than fame and fortune.

In 1938, Harvard University initiated a longitudinal study with 268 students. It expanded to 1,300 of their children. And after 84 years, it confirmed that fame and fortune do not create happiness.

I recently came across an excerpt from Arthur C.Brooks‘ book, Strength to Strength. Brooks recounts the longitudinal Harvard study and other evidence that points to seven qualities – we might call them determinants of health and well-being — that are likely to help us live happily, especially the second half of our lives.

It came to me that InterFaith Leadership Council is deeply involved in the most important of these. Brooks mentions that quitting smoking, minimizing alcohol intake, having a good diet, not being obese, and exercising are important. However, of the seven conditions that he mentions the most important is learning to cope well where faith and spiritual practices can be very helpful; lifelong learning; and most important of all, building and maintaining relationships where faith can again contribute significantly.

InterFaith Leadership Council programs are founded on education, understanding, and building friendships. Our newest effort — the Interfaith Community Values Project – especially so. The values project is intended to minimize community conflict and build bonds of friendship. The verdict is in after 84 years, and our interfaith coalition is doing its best to nurture well-being and happiness.

– Robert Bruttell, vice chair, InterFaith Leadership Council

March 5, 2022

Michigan State University Honors InterFaith Leadership Council for Countering Prejudice through Bias Busters Guides

Michigan State University recently awarded the InterFaith Leadership Council and Professor Joe Grimm, MSU School of Journalism, its 2022 Distinguished Partnership Award for Community-Engaged Teaching. This award recognizes the publishing partnership between the InterFaith Leadership Council and Professor Grimm in the creation of Bias Busters Cultural Competence Guides—a series of books about religious and ethnic minority groups in the U.S.

Professor Grimm began the Bias Buster series in 2013 as a tool to engage the community and future journalists with America’s diverse religious and ethnic cultures. Members of the InterFaith Leadership Council have suggested topics, reviewed drafts and used the guides as reference sources. 

To date, 7,000 guides have been sold on Amazon and elsewhere. (See photos of two books in the series.) Professor Grimm is a member of the InterFaith Leadership Council’s podcast committee that produces the Faith & Works podcasts.

“We share the belief that good journalism can and should increase cross-cultural competence, engagement, and understanding as a foundation block of a healthy society. This partnership between the InterFaith Leadership Council and Michigan State University is an ongoing and evolving example of how major institutions must live their values through collaboration to create stronger communities,” said Raman Singh, executive director. Singh has assisted with a Bias Buster guide about the Sikh Community.

December 8, 2021

Protecting our children, and their future, is our moral imperative

Protecting children is sacred to all faith traditions; protecting them from harm that could come from any of the risks associated with modern living: disease, injury, violence.

The loss of life and the post-traumatic stress from the recent shootings of Oxford High School students begs the question: How do we protect our children from themselves?

We have endured mass shootings in schools for 30 years. Our first response is often to pray.

As an organization that represents the faith traditions of Metropolitan Detroit, we share in the mourning and pray that society finds an answer to why a student feels compelled to do this. And we pray for an answer to how we can protect our children.

Nolan Finley of The Detroit News addressed this dilemma in a recent column: “Protecting children is the first job of a civilization. The sad truth is we have no idea how to do that in an open society where our children venture everyday into seemingly safe environments that can erupt in an instant into deadly violence.”

The answer is elusive, perhaps, because it is beyond us – until we develop the collective empathy to envision ourselves as the parents of the Oxford High School students who have lost their lives, were injured, or otherwise traumatized by this incident.

The prevalence of hate and weapons provide fuel and tools for human destruction. But there is something dreadfully wrong in the spirit of our youth.

To some extent, religious institutions have failed. At a time when youth are increasingly distancing themselves from religion and spirituality, faith leaders need to leave their houses of worship and minister to youth – all youth – and offer them a future of hope, not despair.

Young people often grow up not knowing about a higher power that can help them through a difficult time. They feel that using tools of character assassination and weaponry will stop the pain they may be feeling. Nothing teaches them how to work through or around it, without exacting death on their peers.

We have allowed our children to be subjected to the terror of mayhem and trauma that is not present in most other democratic countries. We give children no reason to believe their lives are precious to us. The hypocrisy of our societal behavior is a moral crisis. We must quit claiming that our children’s physical and mental health is important to us or treat the fact that we have allowed so many to die and otherwise be harmed as a crisis of faith.

We have failed a generation of children who are now becoming parents themselves. Are we going to act to protect their children?

It is time – long past time – to see a terrible moral crisis for what it is: a crisis of faith, a moral imperative, and find the courage to solve it. Protecting our children is, indeed, the future of civilization.

Rev. Stancy Adams, Chair
Robert Bruttell, Vice Chair
Raman Singh, President
InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit

July 2021

We Express Sorrow and Solidarity with Our Asian American Neighbors

The InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit was shocked and saddened by the shootings of seven Asian Americans in Atlanta last week. This horrific event was the most violent recent incident, but there have been many verbal and physical assaults against Asian Americans throughout the U.S. during the past year.

Our local Asian American and Pacific Islander community is frightened. While Euro-Americans may have forgotten, Asian Americans have not forgotten the murder of Vincent Chin here in Detroit during another period of anti-Asian bigotry.

Hate speech is unacceptable and violence against others because of their religion, ethnicity or race is unconscionable. Every major religion teaches the dignity of each individual and the value of human life. We call on all Americans to speak out against bigotry and violence against people of all backgrounds.

April 19, 2021

InterFaith Leadership Council President Raman Singh Speaks at Vigil for Sikh Community Members Killed in Indianapolis

View the segment here: https://www.clickondetroit.com/news/local/2021/04/18/members-of-sikh-community-gather-in-plymouth-to-honor-fedex-shooting-victims/

InterFaith Leadership Council Board Member Jaspal Neelam, Vice Chair Bob Bruttell and President Raman Singh participated in a vigil at Gurdwara Sahib Mata Tripta in Plymouth.

January 13, 2021

We Must Strive for Positive Values that Protect Democracy

 Along with millions of Americans, we were horrified by the recent violence at the U.S. Capitol.  A mob of “protestors” caused deaths and injuries as well as destruction of a sacred building and all that it represents. Why sacred? Because it is the building where the people’s representatives do the people’s business based on the principle that all people are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among those are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

We are heartened that many political, civic, religious, and business leaders have issued statements condemning this violence and calling for a renewal of civil discourse, mutual respect for fellow Americans and tolerance for views that differ from our own. Each of us must ask ourselves whether our beliefs and actions support democracy, which encompasses religious freedom, inclusion and acceptance of diverse voices and racial justice. We must speak up and honor these ideals with our actions.

Those of us within the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit, along with our affiliates, share the values that underpin a harmonious community–compassion, understanding and respect. We speak from a moral perspective on social and political issues and believe that preserving democracy is a mutual responsibility. Our various faiths tell us that we cannot be passive or silent. We must reach out to all of our fellow citizens to listen, to learn and to support and preserve the values of our faiths and democracy. Violence in an effort to suppress the voices of some Americans can never be the answer.

Rev. Stancy Adams, Chair
Robert A. Bruttell, Vice-Chair
Raman Singh, President
InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit

August 13, 2020

Statement Regarding Anti-Semitic posts on Instagram quoting Hitler, Louis Farrakhan on Instagram made by DeSean Jackson of the Philadelphia Eagles, other NFL players

 Derogatory speech, unchecked, fuels a climate of division and hate. That hate speech may be even more pernicious when it is casual and reflexive. Whether the target is a Muslim, gay, Black, Jewish, Native or Asian-American individual, we must speak out and affirm that hate speech is equally unacceptable regardless of its source or target.

Hardly a week goes by without a news report of a celebrity or public official making derogatory comments about an individual or group because of their different race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or gender identity. The 24/7 reach of cable news and social media provides an omnipresent platform for athletes, entertainers, as well as government officials and others to say things that range from insensitive to full-blown hate speech.

An op-ed column in the Detroit Free Press recently critiqued the behavior of several athletes and raised concerns locally. DeSean Jackson of the Philadelphia Eagles expressed anti-Semitic comments on Instagram. Two other professional athletes supported him publicly, issuing their own anti-Semitic statements. The Philadelphia Eagles management responded that the player’s statements were “offensive and appalling” but took a week to penalize him with an undisclosed fine.

This was a relatively mild reaction compared to incidents of discriminatory comments about other groups.

This comes at a time when Jewish Americans are experiencing a sharp increase in anti-Semitic attacks—shootings at synagogues, assaults on rabbis and other Jewish individuals, as well as vandalism to Jewish day schools, synagogues, cemeteries, and physical and verbal assaults. Being a member of a victimized group is not a rationale for targeting others with negative stereotypes and false accusations. Logically, being part of a persecuted group should lead to empathy for others who face discrimination.

Also, white supremacist and other hate-based organizations typically target all groups who they perceive as “different” in a negative way—whatever their race or religion.

The IFLC commits to working with the organized Jewish Community, JCRC, ADL and the Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity in metropolitan Detroit to confront hate speech and help its purveyors see how it redounds to the detriment of all of us.

Related links of positive responses from professional athletes:

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/kareem-abdul-jabbar-is-outrage-anti-semitism-sports-
hollywood-1303210

https://www.post-gazette.com/sports/steelers/2020/07/08/desean-jackson-zach-banner-steelers-nfl-anti-semitism-jewish-community/stories/202007080117

 

June 30, 2020

Statement Regarding Hateful Intrusion during June 28 St. John Royal Oak Zoom religious service. 

The intrusion of racist and fascist rhetoric in the peace of a spiritual service is a hate crime, perhaps of greater magnitude than defaming a house of worship. The assault of hackers on St. John Episcopal Church’s Zoom service, on June 28, is an abomination. We extend our prayers and hope for resilience in the face of this assault and call upon Zoom to better protect faith communities from virtual assault during this difficult pandemic period.

We applaud Rev. Beth Taylor, pastor of St. John’s, for her steadfast commitment to resume her service in the face of this verbal attack and her affirmation that the safety and sanctity of her congregation is integrated with that of all people of faith in the region. As Pastor Taylor noted in a Facebook post, “We will not cease our work to bring about a just and equitable community.”

Indeed. An assault on one faith community is an assault on all. We believe the voice of hate has no home where love abides. We pray that love continues to be present at St. John’s and that its congregation will remain safe and resilient in this difficult time.

 

June 2020

Statement Regarding Death of George Floyd

It has happened again. Another black man killed by police. George Floyd murdered before our eyes in Minneapolis. It happened as we are enduring the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and its devastation on the world’s population. The pandemic itself has revealed the ongoing racism and segregation that restricts health care, education, job opportunities and housing for black, brown, and other people of color. We see both the sharp, deadly brutality inflicted upon people of color by law enforcement officers as well as others and the slow corrosive racism that inflicts another kind of violence. People are angry – especially black people who are justifiably angry.

During this crisis the InterFaith Leadership Council is determined to be Resilient and not turn away from the racist evidence before our eyes.

Four years ago, the InterFaith Leadership Council, together with leading faith and human relations leaders, developed a “Commitment to be Resilient” to combat the rise of religious intolerance and hatred following the 2016 presidential election. All the while since then expressions of hate and incivility have increased in society. The need to promote resilience is even more compelling today, as we recognize that black lives continue to be threatened by violence and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. We will again join with our partners, other faith and human relations leaders, to be allies, as we address the segregation that is so toxic and to clearly identify the racism that we must combat together.

Please read the two reflections below written by of our African American board members, Reverends Stancy Adams and Jimmie Wafer. White folks often do not see how wrenching racism is to the people whom it affects directly. They are heart-wrenching and offer a perspective we all can benefit from. We will also feature the perspectives from other religious traditions within our IFLC family.

Commitment to be Resilient

I believe
that we are called to lift each other up,
that we are stronger standing together,
that our differences are a blessing,
that empathy and love reveal the path to peace,
and that justice will prevail,
because each of us is Beloved.

Therefore, I commit to
answer intolerance with goodwill,
live by faith had hope, not fear
seek understanding and friendship whenever I can,
stand with those facing prejudice and injustice,
meet resistance with resiliency as I build the Beloved Community
each day.

May 2020
Letter to Governor Whitmer

May 20, 2020

Dear Gov. Whitmer,

People of all faith traditions were reassured that you value spiritual expression through prayer enough to include it as a component of your COVID-19 briefing on May 15. For an issue so deeply politicized, fueling hateful rhetoric and action, you chose to calm the moment with reflection and prayer. By inviting clergy from different faiths to express their religious traditions in a media briefing often dominated by statistics and executive orders, you demonstrated courage and wisdom, a mark of civic leadership.

We live in a moment that calls for faith leaders to provide a moral perspective on issues that too often are reduced to analytics. It is a time when faith leaders, together with elected leaders, need to foster resilience in our communities ravaged by disease.

By allowing the voice of faith to join your briefing through prayer, you reminded viewers of the emotional depth of this pandemic and of hope. Your action reminded us that people are calling for compassionate leadership; and that through your actions as governor, you have provided a sense of thoughtful, sensitive direction forward.

We offer our prayer that divine presence continue to inspire your work and contribute to our healing.

Raman Singh, President

Rev. Stancy Adams, Chairperson

Robert Bruttell, Vice-Chairperson

November, 2019

Almont Ugliness: InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit Condemns Racism at Recent Local Football Game

Shame on those football fans, parents and students from Almont High whose racist anger, whose unjustified sense of their white supremacy caused them to believe that they could lose their sense of humanity toward teenagers, allowing these people to rain ugly vitriol down on African American high school football players.

Nothing justifies it. Ironically those racist acts point out why these black students protest. For them racism is real and a suffocating daily presence. For these black Denby High students the racist acts of these people from Almont demonstrate that many Americans today refuse to honor the promise of opportunity and equality that the flag represents.

Shame. Shame. Shame
Rev. Stancy F. Adams, Chairperson
Robert A. Bruttell, Vice-Chair
Raman Singh, President

2018-2019

In Support of Water Availability for All

During 2018, the Religious Leaders Forum became very concerned about water shut-offs in some Detroit homes when residents could not afford their water bills. Clergy came together to develop a position statement supporting water availability and quality as a moral issue—a position that has been communicated to public officials at the local and state level and others during 2018 and 2019.

The statement, along with a list of the individuals who signed it, follows:

Religious Leaders Forum

Statement of Faith Leaders on the Accessibility and Treatment of Water in Detroit

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over mighty waters.
— Psalm 29:3

Water plays a pivotal role in our various religious communities and congregations. We mention water in our prayers. We use water in our rituals. We find water in our Scriptures, where water is more than a metaphor for God’s loving kindness, but a promise made to people living in places where water was scarce and precious. Water makes life possible.

Water is essential to human flourishing and human dignity. In 2010, the General Assembly of the United Nations rightfully declared that “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation” is “a right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights” (UN Res. 64/292, art. 1). This fundamental human right resonates with all of our sacred teachings.

As religious leaders, we live under a Divine obligation to speak on behalf of those who do not have access to water. We bear responsibility to lead by word and action in calling for policies that are just and equitable. We are called to work with those of good will for water practices that are environmentally sustainable. We are called to give water to those who are thirsty.

In Metropolitan Detroit, thousands face the threat of losing access to water due to financial hardships stemming from a lack of meaningful employment. Many are forced to pay rates they cannot afford, and many bear the burden of living with a sanitation system that is unreliable, unsustainable, and out of date. Finally, many cannot take advantage of the assistance programs that the Detroit Water and Sewage Department has established to mitigate their plight.

Our elected officials must therefore address the essential role water and its affordability play in the flourishing of Michigan residents and communities. We are writing to encourage equitable and creative solutions to help low-income and vulnerable persons have access to clean and safe water.

We, the religious leaders of congregations throughout Metro Detroit write with one voice to urge all citizens to support our civil officials as they search for ways to reduce the barriers to clean and safe water for all. We also pledge to continue to listen to the needs of the poor and to work for meaningful change in the provision of, and access to, clean and safe water for all. Finally, we pledge to work collaboratively whenever we can to promote the common good and build the Beloved Community.

Religious Leaders Forum of Metropolitan Detroit

  • Bishop David Bard, Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church
  • Rabbi Joshua Bennett, Temple Israel
  • Rabbi Aaron Bergman, President, Michigan Board of Rabbis, Senior Rabbi, Adat Shalom Synagogue
  • Reverend Dr. Daniel Buttry, Global Consultant for Peace and Justice, American Baptist Churches
  • Reverend Dr. DeeDee M. Coleman, President, Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity, Inc.
  • Reverend Dr. William Danaher, Canon of Interfaith and Ecumenical Relations, Diocese of Michigan, and Rector, Christ Church Cranbrook
  • Imam Steve Mustapha Elturk, President Islamic Organization of North America
  • The Right Reverend Wendell N. Gibbs, Jr., Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Michigan
  • Reverend Dr. Kenneth Harris, President and Academic Dean, Ecumenical Theological Seminary, Detroit
  • Rabbi Marla Hornsten, Temple Israel
  • Father Aren Jebejian, St. John’s Armenian Orthodox Church
  • David Johnson, President of the Westland Stake, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • Monsignor John Kasza, Interfaith Officer, Archdiocese of Detroit
  • Bishop Donald Kreiss, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Southeast Michigan Synod
  • Rabbi Harold Loss, Temple Israel
  • Rabbi Jason Miller, Director, Kosher Michigan
  • Rabbi Mark Miller, Senior Rabbi, Temple Beth El
  • Rabbi Michael Moskowitz, Temple Shir Shalom
  • Dr. Theodore Parsons III, President, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
  • Father George Shalhoub, St. Mary’s Antiochan Orthodox Church
  • Rabbi Steven Rubenstein, Congregation Beth Ahm
  • Imam Hassan Sayed Qazwini, Islamic Institute of America
  • Reverend Dr. Allen Timm, Executive Presbyter, Presbytery of Detroit, PCUSA
  • The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron, Archbishop of Detroit
  • Reverend Dr. Keith Whitney, Chairman Social Action & Public Policy Committee of the Council of Baptist Pastors

Additional Clergy Who Support the Statement about Water Rights:

  • Rabbi Edut Dorit, President, Detroit Interfaith Outreach Network
  • Rabbi Arianna Gordon, Temple Israel
  • Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny, Temple Israel
  • Rabbi Jennifer Lader, Temple Israel
  • Rabbi Paul Yedwab, Temple Israel