On behalf of Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace it is my pleasure to welcome you to this critical and important conversation on religion and violence.
In the days immediately following September 11, 2001, the Rev. George Regas, retired rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, called together a group of religious leaders in Los Angeles to seek an alternative to the rush to war that was sweeping much of our nation. The group, which included Rev. James Lawson, Rabbi Leonard Beerman, Rabbi Steve Jacobs, Iman Saadiq Saafir, Father Chris Ponnet and others decided to rally around the slogan "Religious Communities Must Stop Blessing War and Violence."
Religious leaders and activists began meeting to discuss issues and organize activities, calling themselves Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace---ICUJP. Their goal was to find ways to create a culture of peace and help end the war system.
During the fifteen years since its inception, led by George Regas, ICUJP has kept its finger on the moral pulse of the nation. Using education, advocacy, action events and programs, members demonstrate their staunch commitment to four core principles:
- the power of love to overcome hatred
- the power of mercy to conquer vengeance
- the celebration of our common humanity and the sacredness of human life
- and our calling to build a just, equitable, and peaceful world.
I just returned from teaching in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world. It was amazing to understand better why that is a more peaceful country in terms of tolerance and relationship between religions. I visited the third largest mosque in the world in Jakarta, Masjid Istiqlal. The Cathedral is right across the street and the government monument is on the other side. This was constructed deliberately: the mosque, the church, and government working side by side and keeping an eye on each other. During Ramadan and other events, the Muslims use the Cathedral’s parking lot. And during Easter and Christmas, it’s vice versa! Yes, there are extremists. And yes, there are occasional flare-ups of persecution.
But for the most part they all unite under the banner of being Indonesian. My friends, it IS possible for religious communities to stop blessing war and violence! We welcome you to explore that together this afternoon. Thank you!