Spiritual leaders from across the country and around the world came together recently to speak out against violence and inequality on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
The Aug. 10 event, “Stand Up for Humanity,” was an interfaith gathering organized by Unity of Washington, DC to create a global effort to engage people to do the work to counter gun violence, racism and injustices they see in their communities.
Rev. Kevin Ross, senior minister at Unity of Sacramento in California, mentioned that there is nothing wrong with thoughts and prayers for those that need them.
“However, we cannot let thoughts and prayers to become a final resting place,” Ross said. “It has to become a starting point because thoughts and prayers need to couple with acts and votes.”
One of the reasons why Ross was inspired to attend is that he believes that the nation is calling out for people to respond to the acts of tragic violence by domestic terrorists and law enforcement.
“The moral compass of the nation comes from people of faith and so as a member of the faith community, it’s my role to lean in difficult times rather than disappear,” he said.
Ross also shared his opinion on what can be done to build trust between the Black community and the police.
“Faith communities have to connect with community organizers because the perspective has factorial basis,” he said. “We have historical basis for the perspective. But sitting down with faith leaders and law enforcement and educating them about the way they are perceived in community and letting them know that their impact as occupiers in our community [doesn’t] serve us. If they want to be a part of our community, we want them to serve the community.”
Bobby Edwards, a Christian who attends Peoples Congregation United Church of Christ in Northwest, felt compelled to attend to do something and to be in fellowship with people who are concerned about the state of the nation.
Edwards wore a shirt with the words “Make Racism Wrong Again.” He also noticed a shift with white America as the racial population is changing in the United States.
“I see a lot of fear in white America,” he said. “I see the demographics changing them. I see this whole belief that heaven forbid other people could do to them that they have done to other people.”
Edwards said he also sees this fear with the discussion around Black lives, brown people, immigration and people who do not speak English as their first language.
“Unless you are Native American, you have no position to say to ‘go home’ to anyone,” he said.
After the speeches and performances, attendees gathered around the Reflecting Pool at the memorial holding battery-operated candles and using their smartphones as flashlights to call for peace and tranquility in the world.
Rev. Michael Beckwith, author, New Thought minister and founder of Agape International Spiritual Center, spoke at the interfaith gathering and said that the real power is in the people. He urged listeners to wake up and build the kind and just society we want to live in and not complain about, then take the necessary steps to anchor it.
The Unity movement, known for its bimonthly publication Daily Word, is dealing with its own paradigm shift at their local churches on how to address social justice issues with their congregations. Many Unity congregations have social action ministries that are involved with numerous charities but few are involved in faith-based advocacy.
Rev. Sylvia Sumter, senior minister at Unity of Washington, DC, said that Unity is just getting into the social activist arena and sees the shift taking place. At her faith community, they coordinated dialogue sessions on race, people from different faiths, and reconciliation and healing before and after the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
“We are not here to save people, but to serve them,” Beckwith said.