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Faith Sharing – Fighting Fear

September 10, 2012

Faith Sharing is a regular part of our worship of God at the White Plains Presbyterian Church. The following was read by The Rev. Sarah Henkel at a public witness against fear, hatred and bigotry. The Press Conference was held on Thursday, September 7, 2012.

I am Rev. Sarah Henkel. I am a resident of White Plains, NY.  Parish Associate at White Plains Presbyterian and Cross-Cultural Network Coordinator for the Presbytery of Hudson River.  I’m speaking today as an individual member of the clergy, not on behalf of the Presbytery, but alongside many fellow Presbyterian pastors and church members who have taken a stand against hate and signed on to the letter decrying the Islamophobic ads posted in Westchester MTA stations.

A few weeks ago Rev. Geary, pastor at White Plains Presbyterian Church led us in prayer on a Sunday morning in the wake of several weeks of gun violence, as well as violence against Muslims and Muslim communities. We prayed that at such a time as this our Muslim neighbors would find in us ready allies to stand against violence, hatred and fear.

Fear is the easy way out in a complex and diverse world.  Fear is used to manipulate, to paint things in black and white, to mislead and misinform people to base our unity in finding a common enemy. That was the intent of the ads posted by the American Freedom Defense Initiative.

My call is to religious leaders of all faiths to commit to reclaiming our communities from fear.  My hope is that many of us are gathered here today and many more have signed on to the letter.  In my work as Cross-Cultural Network Coordinator for Hudson River Presbytery, a network of members from the Presbytery are leading the journey away from fear to acceptance – and celebration – of difference.  We are gaining skills in Cross-Cultural awareness, combatting racism and ethnocentrism.  And those skills are being shared with our individual congregations and their members.  This is about changing the ethos of the community, starting local and building bigger, so that we know in our bodies, minds and spirits that we can be different from one another and still exist in peace.  We will be communities that are equipped to respond to hatred without fear, ready allies to stand against violence, hatred and fear.

Those ads won’t have the last word.  We use them to recommit to standing with our Muslim sisters and brothers as we are united – not by fear – but by a common hope in peace.  Thank you.

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For more information, see Pastor Jeff’s previous post and sermon. A video of several testimonies that were given before and as a part of the press conference is available here. Rev. Henkel’s words appear at about 5:20 and 21:00 minutes in.

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