American Civic Life

Interfaith Leadership Amid Challenges

Person at demonstration in the city. (Sibway/	iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Person at demonstration in the city. (Sibway/ iStock/Getty Images Plus)

It is a challenging time for interfaith cooperation.

I am saddened by the scenes unfolding on campuses across America in the wake of conflict and despair in Israel/Palestine. As campus communities grapple with the very values and traditions that shape higher education and guide our religiously diverse democracy — freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom from harassment and intimidation, communication across difference — the work of bridgebuilding, deep listening, and acknowledging our shared humanity are imperative.  

We recognize, as interfaith leaders helping America to achieve its promise, that there is a long and important tradition of protest and civil disobedience in America—those who marched for suffrage, for abolition, for civil rights, and for an end to war. The right to advocate for what we believe in — and, indeed, to protest — is central to the American promise. And we recognize that we stand on the shoulders of those who built civic institutions that bring people of diverse identities and divergent ideologies together in cooperative endeavors. The impulse and the ability to engage our fellow citizens across lines of difference in service of the common good is likewise central to what it means to be American.

We recognize, too, that it is never appropriate or acceptable for political protests to degenerate into bigotry, defamation, and violence. 

In difficult moments like these, more than ever, we must heed the call of interfaith leadership, fostering relationships across lines of difference, showing care for those who grieve and hurt, and opening our hearts and minds to our fellow citizens of diverse identities.  

As I navigate this difficult time, I look to the wisdom of friends and leaders who have shed more light than heat on this extremely complex and nuanced issue. Here are some resources I’ve found helpful: