As a Vanderbilt alumna, I want to share with you this article by Vanderbilt divinity student, activist and blogger Anthony Fatta that was published on the Washington Post The Faith Divide blog today. It is a wonderful example of interfaith solidarity against intolerance. I hope that the Lord will raise up many more young faith leaders with this sense of solidarity, this sense that we are all God's children regardless of our denominational affiliation.
A few weeks ago, a mosque in Nashville, Tenn., was vandalized with spray paint spelling out "Muslims Go Home" and the drawing of a crusade-style cross. It is thought that the vandalism was in response to a local television news special called Islamville that was exploring a Muslim community living in a rural area outside of Nashville. This news special was conducted in response to a video entitled Homegrown Jihad produced by the Christian Action Network, which portrays this Tennessean Muslim community as a terrorist training facility.
After seeing that the Al-Farooq mosque had been vandalized, I immediately got in contact with my interfaith student group at Vanderbilt, Mosaic, to discuss what we could do. We agreed that we would to offer our help in cleaning and raise money to help the mosque invest in a security system - efforts we have started already and will continue to do.
As a Christian and a future religious leader, I deem it necessary to respond to this incident. An attack on the Muslim community is an attack to my own religious community and to anyone who believes in religious freedom. The destruction of anything sacred is unacceptable. An incident like this is adverse to not only my Christian faith and convictions but also as a student at Vanderbilt and a resident of Nashville. I cannot be idle when the security and well-being of another religious community is at stake. For that matter, neither should any of you, regardless of your beliefs.
A few months after settling into my new Church in Nashville, my pastor asked me to explain how I was acting as the "Hands of Christ" in my life to the congregation. Was my Christian faith encouraging me to pursue Gospel Justice in my own community? I explained to him the interfaith service work I have done and that the "Hands of Christ" were present in each and every project. Helping this mosque was no exception.
The duty of an interfaith leader, who can be anyone who believes in peace and cooperation between religious and non-religious communities, is not to just respond to these events as they happen but work towards preventing them. We all have a responsibility in this type of interfaith work and our many traditions, religious or non-religious, call for action.
I am committed to build Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision of a beloved community through Mosaic, the interfaith student group at Vanderbilt Divinity School, but I hope that many of you today will articulate to your own communities why such acts of vandalism are affronts to us all. It may seem daunting to reach out to those in need but by ensuring the safety and freedom of others, we protect our own freedoms and rediscover our call to life in harmony: in love and in service.
Photo: Vandalism at Al-Farooq Mosque in Nashville, TN