FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 24, 2023
Alanna Hunter-Lawley, Interfaith Alliance of Colorado
Interfaith Alliance of Colorado: We Stand With the Israeli and Palestinian People, and Remain Committed to Dismantling Hate
Denver, Colorado — Shara Smith, CEO, The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado released the following statement:
I hope this message finds you well, but suspect that you have been struggling, as I have, with the war in the Middle East and the gut-wrenching violence that has gripped the region. We have received several inquiries asking for our position on what is occurring, for a statement declaring whose side we are on, and which group we support.
Until now, we have refrained from issuing a statement, which has prompted some to assume that we are indifferent to what is occurring. This could not be further from the truth.
As a Colorado-based organization, we do not often venture into international issues. However, the seriousness of what has occurred and the impact on those here in Colorado and beyond warrants some clarity on our values as an organization and where we have focused our energy in this critical moment.
Since the horrific attack on Israeli citizens on October 7th by Hamas, we have been connecting with our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters to check on them, their families, and loved ones. Many have shared that they have personal connections to individuals who have been kidnapped, are missing, or who are being used as human shields by Hamas while attempting to get their families out of harm’s way. Others have shared how their children are being subjected to harassment at school here in the U.S., with students invoking both anti-Arab insults and anti-Semitic tropes, as well as engaging in physical attacks.
It has been profoundly painful to watch the unimaginable violence unfold and the deep, deep suffering of both the Israeli and Palestinian people.
We want to be clear to those demanding that we ‘take a side’ in stating that our network does not conflate Hamas with the Palestinian people, nor do we excuse the violence and harm that have been inflicted on Palestinians and Israelis by those intent on pitting Muslims against Jews.
For years people have demanded that we pick a side in one of the most intractable conflicts in history. This side picking has not led to freedom for Palestinians or peace for Israelis. The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado will always side with the humanity of our Muslim and Jewish partners, friends, and family. We recognize that evil and brutality are a constant threat. However, when we support those who fight for peace on both sides, we do our part to ensure our better natures prevail.
Our internal discussions have revealed the deep outrage we all feel in watching the horrific violence being inflicted on the people of Israel and Palestine, as well as the need for us all to resist the seduction of division that we’re now being called to embrace.
We support the dignity of people of all faiths. While some might argue that it’s easy to take this position because we are not in harm’s way, we would argue instead that there are members of our network who are in harm’s way and that this conflict is already resulting in clashes in various cities across the country. The trauma that our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters are experiencing as they watch their loved ones endangered is very real.
We would also argue that attempts to separate individuals from their own humanity, or try to excuse horrific violence is antithetical to what we, as a faith-based organization, are about. Our mission is to build bridges, not tear them down. We cannot, in good faith, allow these attempts to dehumanize or ignore barbaric violence to bear fruit.
Our challenge in this moment as Coloradans is to continue the difficult, but necessary interfaith dialogue that has been occurring and to do everything we possibly can to not lose sight of each other in this moment of conflict. How we, as individuals, use this moment to create personal growth, deepened understanding, and a groundswell of humanism against any and all calls for violence, is the test that we are currently facing.
We need to ask ourselves: What can we each do in our personal lives to make this a reality?
As an organization, we believe that the problems caused by human beings can be solved by human beings. To that end, we are working on several initiatives to confront the use of faith to harm and oppress others:
- Our Force for Good Luncheon on Friday, November 3rd, will address the rise in Christian nationalism, as well as the importance of diversity from multiple dimensions.
- We are working with our Muslim and Jewish brothers and sisters on some upcoming joint trainings on Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
- We are hosting an interfaith holiday celebration on December 11th to honor the many diverse faith traditions and people in Colorado, and
- We continue to conduct dialogue on what’s happening with the war between Israel and Hamas.
I invite you to join us in these efforts, both in your personal lives and together with our network. Details on upcoming events will be announced via email and on social media.
In the meantime, I am reminded of some critical words for us all to consider in this moment from international peace activist and DU Scholar, Dr. Daisaku Ikeda. He states:
“The misfortune of others is our misfortune. Our happiness is the happiness of others. To see ourselves in others and feel an inner oneness and sense of unity with them represents a fundamental revolution in the way we view and live our lives. Therefore, discriminating against another person is the same as discriminating against oneself. When we hurt another, we are hurting ourselves. And, when we respect others, we respect and elevate our own lives as well.”
I ask that you please join me in resisting the urge to see war as inevitable and to do everything we possibly can in our daily lives as Coloradans to create a new path forward marked by shared dignity, respect, compassion, and consideration for all. Terror is never the answer.
The conversations we’re having right now are very difficult, but please stay in it together with us. Our work is more important now than ever.
CEO, Interfaith Alliance of Colorado
If you are interested in speaking further with the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, please contact Alanna Hunter-Lawley at info(at)interfaithallianceco(dot)org.
The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado is an interfaith public policy and advocacy organization with over 400 faith families in our statewide network, representing over two dozen faith traditions. We celebrate religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. For more information visit interfaithallianceco.org.