The Common Good

SOJOURNERS LAUNCHES BILLBOARD CAMPAIGN, CALLS CHRISTIANS TO LOVE THEIR NEIGHBORS OF DIFFERENT FAITHS

Date: August 21, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 21, 2012

CONTACTS:

Carrie Adams: (202)745-4654; cadams@sojo.net

SOJOURNERS LAUNCHES BILLBOARD CAMPAIGN, CALLS CHRISTIANS TO LOVE THEIR NEIGHBORS OF DIFFERENT FAITHS

Act of Solidarity with Sikh and Muslim Neighbors Near Sites of Recent Violence and Arson

Washington DC, August 21, 2012 --

In light of the recent acts of violence and vandalism against religious minorities across the country, Sojourners is calling on Christians to stand up against the hatred. Starting today, a billboard and newspaper ad will appear in Joplin, Mo., home to a mosque that burned to the ground earlier this month after suffering two previous acts of arson. Both the ad and the billboard read simply, “Love Your Muslim Neighbors.” The billboard is five blocks from the mosque on the corner of W 7th Street & S Schifferdecker Street; the newspaper ad ran today in The Joplin Globe on Page A6. The second billboard has been erected three blocks from the gurudwara that was the recent target of a shooting that left six worshippers dead. The billboard reads, “Love Your Sikh Neighbors,” and sits on the corner of College Avenue and 13th Street in Oak Creek (to see a picture of the billboards and the ad, click HERE).

            Lisa Sharon Harper, Director of Mobilizing for Sojourners, who recently joined with the Muslim community in fasting during Ramadan, noted, “These attacks all come from fear. People fear what they don’t know or don’t understand.” She added, ““These ads are encouragement for Christians to act out of love and not fear toward those of different religions.”

           Geoff Tunnicliffe, CEO and Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance, said, “Let there be no doubt: As Christians, we want to live in peace with Muslims, Sikhs, and with all men and women in this world. This is intrinsic to our religion and is essential to Jesus’ teachings.” Tunnicliffe hopes that these billboards send a strong message to those of other faiths, as well, adding, “We want these billboards to communicate solidarity against violence and the desire to live peacefully with one another, regardless of faith tradition.”

           In Milwaukee, Wis., Rev. Steve Jerbi of All Peoples Church has been actively involved in responding to the shooting at the gurudwara. “It is amazing that loving our neighbor is such a radical statement. The walls of division, fear, and sometimes just not even knowing our neighbors is too often our reality. This campaign reminds us, after tragedy and in everyday life, that we are called to love our neighbors. This is a chance for Christians to continue to express not just our sympathy, but our love for sisters and brothers in the Sikh community.”

           Rev. Jill Cameron Michel of South Joplin Christian Church has worked with other clergy in the area to support the Islamic community after the loss of their building by hosting an Iftar dinner with four other churches in the area, as well as planning future outreach focusing on educating Christians about Islam. "Jesus went to where people were hurting," Michel said. "He crossed boundaries of culture, race, and religion, and he acted in love even when it was difficult.  Jesus echoed the words of Judaism by reminding us that faith comes down to loving God and loving your neighbor, two inseparable parts of the whole.  Offering comfort, support, and hope, recognizing the humanity not only of those who believe as I do, but of all -- these are acts of love, and are central to my faith.”

         “The message of this billboard is clear: We are all in this together. Millions of Americans are standing with Sikh Americans in the wake of this tragedy, and we all share a vision of an America where our religious values and beliefs unite, not divide, our community,” said Valarie Kaur, Director of Groundswell, the multifaith social action initiative of Auburn Seminary which put out a national call for messages and prayers of hope in the wake of the attacks. “There has been a national outpouring of support and attention in light of these events. I’ve read notes from thousands of concerned citizens across the country, and I was able to deliver some of these messages to the Sikh community in Oak Creek, Wisconsin,” said Kaur. “Amar Kaleka’s father, president of the temple, was killed in the shooting. Amar told me, ‘The shooter attempted to divide us. But you are all heroes.’”

            Sojourners, in hopes of expanding the campaign, is seeking donations to add a billboard in the Chicago area to respond to a recent string of vandalism targeted at Muslims.

            Ms. Harper, Mr. Tunnicliffe, and the Revs. Jerbi and Michel, and Valarie Kaur are available for comment by contacting Carrie Adams, Communications Manager, Sojourners at cadams@sojo.net or 202-745-4654.

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Sojourners' mission is to articulate the biblical call to social justice, inspiring hope and building a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world. Visit www.sojo.net, and www.GodsPolitics.com.