In addition to pastoring Highlands Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne, I am the leader of the Peace and Justice Team for the Wyoming Interfaith Network (WIN). As its name indicates, WIN is a diverse organization of people of many faiths, e.g. Islam, Judaism, Unitarian Universalism, Baha’i, Native American spirituality and a variety of Christians – e.g. Disciples of Christ, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, American Baptist, Episcopalian among others. We believe an interfaith dialogue can contribute to better communities.
The Wyoming Interfaith Network issued a statement in support of the hundreds of Wyoming people and millions around the United States and the world who are marching and demonstrating for racial justice.
The vision of the Wyoming Interfaith Network is to partner with others in bringing together the diverse voices of our communities to challenge religious and political extremism. As a multi-faith organization and people of religious conviction, we are committed to living faithfully and justly in the world. That commitment demands we join in solidarity with those who are speaking out. To remain silent during these times would be to ignore the foundational beliefs of every faith community.In the Hebrew Bible, it is written, “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:16-17)The Holy Quran of our Muslim brothers and sisters advises we must “stand firm for justice, even if it is against ourselves.” (4:135). Unitarian Universalism’s faith practice and commitment to justice are based on valuing every single person’s inherent worth and dignity; promoting justice, equity, and compassion in human relations; and engaging the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process.Baha’is believe the crucial need facing humanity is to find a unifying vision of the future of society and of the nature and purpose of life. The basis of Christianity is the commandment to love God and one another and to see the face of Christ in “the least of these,” all members of the family of God. (Matthew 25)Each of these faith communities recognize the centrality of doing unto others as you would have done unto you. In Judaism, it is said, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.” Muslims believe, “Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.” In Buddhism, it is said, “Treat not others in ways you yourself would find hurtful.”Each of these teachings lead to brotherhood and sisterhood and away from racism and bigotry.In the coming months, we encourage leaders and teachers in every faith community throughout Wyoming to engage in an honest dialogue about white privilege and what it means to a community when some people are denied the benefits enjoyed by others on the basis of the color of their skin. Unless whites of this generation connect themselves to the sad history of which their ancestors were a part, there is little likelihood we will understand the cry of the oppressed.The Hebrew Bible’s Book of Exodus tells the story of 400 years of enslavement. It ended when God heard the cries of the people, spoke to Moses from a burning bush, and dispatched him to go to Pharaoh to demand the Israelites be freed. It has now been 401 years since the first slave ship arrived in America. The Africans brought here have experienced 250 years of slavery, followed by decades of the horrors of Reconstruction and Jim Crow. Today God is speaking to us, asking us to atone for that history.We join with the Civil Rights Movement’s icon Georgia Congressman John Lewis in calling for peaceful protests, recognizing that justice has been denied to too many, for far too long. Lewis implored all people of goodwill to: “Organize. Demonstrate. Sit in. Stand-up. Vote. Be constructive, not destructive.” The Wyoming Interfaith Network urges people of faith to do likewise.
Rodger McDaniel lives in Laramie and is the pastor at Highlands Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne. Email: email@example.com.