Two days. Two events.

Different audiences. Surprisingly connected!

On January 16 I attended a barbeque hosted by the Islamic Center of Orlando, where I was privileged to present a statement of solidarity with the Muslim community on behalf of thousands of non-Muslim Americans. The previous day. I introduced a new map to Greater Good at their weekly breakfast. Greater Good is a group of Christian social activists, all men, from a range of business backgrounds and church affiliations.

Let’s start with the map. It’s technically a cartogram – a visual rendering of statistical information in map form.

2015 World Population Map. Cartography by Paul Breding. Copyright 2015

2015 World Population Map. Cartography by Paul Breding. Copyright 2015

In the lively discussion that followed we highlighted comments by cartographer Paul Breding, including

  • The Middle East is growing significantly
  • In the decade just past three countries cleared the 1 million population mark: Qatar, Bahrain and Cyprus – all in the Middle East.

Other countries in the region – Syria stands out – are losing population rapidly as refugees flee.

Both the gains and the losses fuel the present malaise that grips vast numbers in the West, particularly in the United States. In its most visible form it is Donald Trump’s call for blocking -- at least “until we can get things figured out” – all Muslim immigration, a stance that seems to be widely applauded across the country. Beyond closing borders, it can poison relationships with Muslims already here… and even be stretched to include Sikhs. At its most extreme, if your country of origin, your name, your accent, your culture, your religious practice are “different,” you’re suspect. Please stay away!

Others, however, refuse to give in to suspicion and fear. They strive to be rational, respectful, accepting. The stats are still unknown, but about 26,000 Americans – the number grows daily – recently signed a statement of support for the Muslim community. This happened without fanfare, on a shoestring budget, organized by Groundswell, a faith-based, ad hoc collection of volunteers. 


America is not America without you. 

 As people of faith and moral conscience, we promise to defend you from attacks, to speak up when you are maligned, and to support you with our voices, our actions, and our bodies. 

May we walk hand in hand into a future where racism, hate, and violence are relics of the past, where differences are celebrated, and our children inherit our joy.

 Signed by 25,614 eople of Faith & Moral Courage

 Organized in partnership with

Powered by Auburn Seminary

In the famous words of German anti­Nazi Lutheran pastor and theologian Martin Niemoller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Socialist. 
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist. 
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew. 
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Today, they are coming for Muslim Americans. And when they come for any member of our community, they come for all of us. 

As we watch the rising tide of anti­Muslim sentiment in our nation, as we listen to preposterous hate speech and rhetoric from political candidates—particularly Mr. Trump—our hearts are cracked wide open.

Even more alarming than the rantings of a single politician are the thousands cheering on bigotry.

People are afraid and concerned for their safety. However, responding to fear with hatred diminishes us all—both in spirit and safety. We must not allow fear to undermine the values that stand at the very core of who we are as faith leaders and Americans.

Every time there is a surge in anti­Muslim speech, there is a corresponding spike in acts of hate and acts of violence against Americans who are Muslim, Sikh, Arab, and South Asian.

You are our neighbors and our doctors, our local merchants and our school board presidents.

We know you as restaurant owners and soccer coaches, as policewomen and public officials. We know you as mothers and fathers and caregivers, and as allies and colleagues in movements for justice. You are us.

We know you as our brothers and our sisters. America is not America without you. We are speaking out, and we have your back, friends. We commit to building a circle of protection around you; we are standing with you.

We love you, and we pledge to show our love in every corner of our lives. May we walk hand in hand into a future where racism, hate, and violence are relics of the past, where differences are celebrated, and our children inherit our joy.

نحن نقف بجانبكم (We stand by you.) | نحن نساندكم (We support you.)

See - and sign - the Groundswell letter online.

Additional comments were designed to set the national statement in a local context. They ended with the high and holy hope that we all might know Salaam, Peace, Shalom. Several people spoke of sensing, in the moments that followed, something significant happening. Maybe a readiness to go beyond mere politeness, beyond playing nicey-nicey… actually striving, separately and together, to build an open community in a more just world. 

So there you have it: one day, a breakfast featuring generous slabs of bacon, the next day, a delicious, pork-free barbeque. One day, a whole new way of looking at the world and its people, using a visual to stimulate no end of great discussion; the next, a gathering of people willing to cross the lines that too often separate us, whether lines on a map or the unseen lines that harden into habits keeping us from knowing the richness and diversity of life. Two days, two places, two groups of people. Two agendas, independently planned and carried out. Yet somehow they connected, and the world seems a more hopeful place. No one denies the darkness, but somehow light shines on.