In the San Francisco Bay Area, we seem to be in a bubble of more open-minded thinking and inclusion. There are other places, regions and states that seem to be filled with fear of the outsider and suspicion of neighbors of different ethnicity, national origin or faith. Add to that the worry of some that feel threatened by differing sexual orientations.

Pastor Ronald Koch

What do we do with all of that? I guess that since I have lived for most of my life in the Bay Area bubble, it hasn’t bothered me all that much. However, recently the news is filled with more and more threats to minorities. Recently a National Day of Hate was announced, and it caused my Presiding Bishop to alert all of our churches and pastors to be ready to stand with those targeted by that declaration. Mostly we were directed to consider our Jewish neighbors and what they might need in terms of support, encouragement and prayer.

Nothing much came of that Day of Hate, thank goodness. However, it seems to me that the mere threat of such a day has to have a chilling effect on the sense of well-being and safety of the Jewish community. As I have studied what led up to World War II, I have become very aware of the Nazi propaganda that led to the arrest of Jews, the destruction of their synagogues and places of business, and the eventual death camps. My father-in-law was part of the army that liberated one of those camps. They were real.

The rise of hate groups and increasing number of attacks on synagogues and mosques has raised the fear factor among our Jewish and Muslim neighbors. I’m sure that we in the Interfaith Clergy Alliance and the South County Interfaith Community are grateful for the knowledge of support for each other in these times. We have spoken openly with each other about these things and offered prayers and support when needed.

When the mosques in New Zealand were attacked, many of us who are not Muslims went to Friday prayers at the local place of worship for Muslims. When a threat was made on our Jewish neighbors, many clergy came to the synagogue and stood together in various robes of our faith traditions in front of the synagogue. We have had several walks of support for those in our communities who have been threatened.

In a recent review of our purposes as members of the Interfaith Clergy Alliance, I was delighted to re-read the following: We desire to foster mutual understanding and respect among religious and spiritual communities. We want to educate and encourage dialogue about the beliefs, customs and practices of faith traditions. We will work to overcome prejudice, violence, religious intolerance and misunderstanding. We aim to facilitate an environment of interfaith respect and harmony among faith traditions by promoting religious freedom and spiritual expression. And we will demonstrate compassion and human dignity. I am glad to be a part of it.

Ronald E. Koch is Pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Gilroy.  He is a founding member of the Interfaith Clergy Alliance of South County. Pastor Koch can be reached at [email protected].

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