OP-ED: PICO Calls on Clergy to Stand Against Hate and Anti-Muslim Rhetoric


Evangelical leaders with the PICO National Network released an open letter Thursday to American Muslims, to promote the respect, integrity and amidst the rise of fearful and hate-filled rhetoric.


Below is the letter from Evangelical Leaders in PICO:


In recent weeks, we have seen a rise in fearful and even hate-filled rhetoric against Muslims in the United States. Just days ago, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a ban on Muslims from entering the U.S. to prevent any Muslim from entering the country as an immigrant or refugee, in addition to the recommendation that we create a national registry for Muslims.


We have witnessed armed protests outside of the Islamic Center of Irving, Texas. State governors are trying to turn away Syrian refugees. The message is that Muslims are a danger to the American life, and that American Muslims are not really part of this country.


We are concerned that this rhetoric creates fear and uncertainty for our Muslim neighbors. We understand that there are deep political motivations by presidential candidates this election cycle to use Muslims as a source of fear to get votes.


We also understand that a majority of mass shootings are committed by white men, but white communities do not face the same responsibility of collective condemnation and backlash that Muslim communities face.


To our Muslim brothers and sisters: We see you. You are our friends, our coworkers, and our allies in building a better country where every person is valued. It hurts us that your membership in this country is being questioned. And so we are reaching out to express solidarity with you during this difficult time.


In particular, we want to reach out as a group of PICO clergy and staff who come from the evangelical Christian community.


To our shame, some of this anti-Muslim rhetoric is coming from leaders who identify as evangelical Christians. Most recently, the president of Liberty University responded to the tragedy in San Bernardino by telling students to get concealed gun permits to “end those Muslims.”


It grieves us that some of our evangelical brothers and sisters are contributing to a climate of fear and hostility. This is not the kind of public witness that evangelicals are called to express.


The word “Evangelical” comes from the Greek word for “Good News.” Evangelicalism is a Christian movement that encourages people to make a personal decision to follow Jesus and be “born again.” We put great emphasis on studying the Bible, participating in a local church, and sharing our faith. This fearful rhetoric does not reflect the Good News that Christians are called to share.


It is our hope that PICO can help strengthen the dialogue between evangelicals and Muslims in the United States. Muslim and evangelical communities live side-by-side in many of the cities where PICO organizes, particularly in California and Texas. For example, evangelicals represent 38 percent of the population in the Dallas area, where our affiliate Faith in Texas organizes.


Texas is home to both large evangelical megachurches and many new and fast-growing mosques. In many PICO affiliates across the country, evangelical and Muslims leaders work side by side for the common good, focusing on racial, ethnic, and economic justice, without compromising our distinctive beliefs.


As Christians, we must do more to oppose fear and misinformation about Islam, particularly when it is promoted by leaders who claim to follow Jesus.


We know that many evangelical pastors and lay people feel the same grief that we do about anti-Muslim rhetoric. But many times, we hesitate to speak out because we don’t think we know enough about Islam to counter misinformation.


Of course, Christians should take the time to learn about Islam in all of its diverse forms. And we also recognize that we do not need to be experts in Islam to speak out for the inherent dignity of all people and express love for our neighbors.


To our Christian brothers and sisters: You already know enough to speak out against fear and hatred towards Muslims. Love is at the heart of the Good News, and that love should guide our speech about our Muslim neighbors.


Consider Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth: “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal…Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.


It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13: 1, 4-8)


This Advent season, we encourage American Christians to reach out to their Muslim neighbors in love. We must also hold fellow Christians accountable for speech that dishonors others, delights in evil and fails to rejoice with the truth. Together, we can build a nation where Christians and Muslims live together in freedom and solidarity.


Your neighbors ,

Onleilove Alston, M.Div.,MSW
Executive Director, Faith in New York (New York, New York)
Part of PICO National Network


Dr. Lydia Bean
Executive Director, Faith in Texas (Dallas/Forth Worth)
Part of PICO National Network


Denise Collazo
Chief of Staff
PICO National Network


Min. Zachary Hoover
Executive Director, LA Voice (Los Angeles, CA)
Part of PICO National Network


Rev. Deth Im
Assistant Director of Training and Development (Kansas City, MO)
PICO National Network


Dr. Troy Jackson
Director, The AMOS Project (Cincinnati, OH)
Part of PICO National Network


Rev. Michael McBride
Director of Urban Strategies & the Live FREE Campaign (San Francisco, Bay Area)
PICO National Network


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