Many religions flourish in Kansas City. We must all come together to fight hate.

When vandals looted and painted swastikas and other hate symbols on the Kansas City headquarters of the Dialogue Institute last fall, people of faith responded quickly and with heart.

First, they spread the word about what had happened to this Turkey-based Muslim group, which has promoted interfaith understanding here for years. They then gathered at the Resurrection United Methodist Church in Leawood to hear speakers from various faith traditions pledge to support the institute and its shocked constituents.

That’s what Kansas City’s interfaith community does when slimy hate slithers out from under the rocks to spread sickening messages of bigotry. And it has been doing so for decades.

So, on this Easter Sunday, I give thanks for this important work symbolized by the overlapping of the main religious celebrations of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam): Lent (February 22 to April 6), Easter (April 5), April to April 13). ) and Ramadan (March 22-April 20).

It turns out that healthy and generative religion is still immensely important in Kansas City.

Yes, Christianity still has the largest following here, but America’s changing religious landscape has affected the metro as well, as American Christianity suffers a decline and the number of people with no religious affiliation (called “none”) grows. .

The fingerprints of religion are all over the history of Kansas City. Sometimes upliftingly, sometimes far from it.

That history includes everything from fights for biblical support for slavery to the founding here in the 1890s of Unity, a spiritualist movement, to the construction in Independence of the world headquarters of the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). As for theological seminaries and bible colleges, we have a handful of them.

One organization that has done as much as any to foster religious education and dialogue is the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, created in 1989 by the Rev. Vern Barnet, a longtime advocate of religious literacy and cooperation.

Among other initiatives, the council sponsors the annual Table of Faiths dinner celebrating the area’s rich heritage of religious diversity.

All of these efforts reveal that the need for reasonable religious voices has not gone away and may be needed more than ever as our deep political divisions are reflected in our religions, sometimes resulting in people of faith dehumanizing others.

But while the Interfaith Council, the Institute for Dialogue, the Johnson County Good Faith Network, and other risk-taking groups seek harmony, various agencies here are dedicated to working against the hate that shows itself in racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic like the one found in Blue Valley High School’s football stadium press box in January.

Immediately after news of that hate crime broke, both the Office of Jewish Community Relations/American Jewish Committee and SevenDays, an organization that works to overcome hate through education and dialogue, issued not only condemnations for what happened, but offered to help heal the wounded.

The SevenDays statement included words from Emma Sandler, a Jewish high school senior in Blue Valley. She is part of the SevenDays Kindness Youth Leadership Team, which helps teens promote acts of kindness, especially on social media.

“I am heartbroken and furious, but I will move forward with kindness, not hate,” Sandler said at the time. (Disclosure: I serve on the boards of directors of SevenDays and the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education, an organization dedicated to teaching about the Holocaust to stop indifference, intolerance, and genocide. SevenDays’ annual “Walk of Kindness” is held every out next Sunday).

This material is important to me. That’s why I’ve written about it in more than 5,000 posts on my “Faith Matters” blog since 2004 and in more recent years in my monthly column for Flatland, KCPT-TV’s online magazine.

There I described, among other things, the work of black pastors like the Rev. Darron Edwards to seek better relations between the police and the community. Edwards, in fact, is representative of how important religion has been among people of color in Kansas City, and not just for Christians but also for others, including Muslims, represented by Imam Sulaiman Z. Salaam Jr. of Al Haqq Islamic. Center.

But whether it’s the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Crescent Peace Society, or any other faith-based organization dedicated to making our area more welcoming, the bitter truth is that it hasn’t been enough. Religious, racial and other types of hatred still lurk in our streets, sometimes anarchist. And each one of us, whether we are religious followers or not, must work to stop it. Today.

Bill Tammeus is a former columnist for the Kansas City Star who now writes for Flatland, KCPT-TV’s online magazine. His latest book is “Love, Loss, and Resilience: A 9/11 Story of Resilience and Hope in an Age of Anxiety.” Email him at [email protected]


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