The Issue: Interfaith

Linda Marks
Interfaith & Community Outreach Officer, MIFA

The interfaith spirit expresses itself in dialogue, understanding, partnership, and action, and today, perhaps more than ever before in history, it is vital. It’s vital according to both meanings of the word.

First, “vital” means absolutely necessary or important, essential, or indispensable to the continuance of life. Because of the daily, often hourly, bulletins we get about the violence and cruelty in our world, much of which is perpetrated specifically in the name of religion, we all reel in the face of these unthinkable acts and wonder what we can do. ...Read More.

For those of us who have not seen these things up close, it is almost possible to comprehend them. Our brains can process the statistics and the rapidly updated reports, but our hearts cannot feel that fast or that fully. Because that is true, one natural reaction is to numb ourselves completely; another is to succumb to an outburst of anger, fear, or sympathy too overwhelming to lead to action, and thus short-lived. 

We must aspire to the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by being, as he said, “voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love.” But we all know this is a daunting challenge.

No matter how strong our commitment to interfaith is, we all have deep roots, connected with our faith, in complex places and political situations where there has been conflict. In addition, though there are many fundamental truths shared by virtually all religions, we don’t all believe the same things, and there are times when our beliefs are thrown into contention. As individuals and as groups, we are all different, and, while the similarities bring us together, the differences do matter.

But here is where I find hope in the second meaning of “vital”: full of energy, lively, spirited, vibrant, dynamic, hearty. The first meaning of “vital” has to do with preserving our survival, not dying. But the second meaning has to do with making our lives and our living worth fighting to save. 

If we are fully open to each other—and seek to experience the “unconditional love” that Dr. King promoted—we may discover beliefs we don’t agree with, even some that we consider harmful or dangerous. We may be drawn into situations where valid human concerns on both sides, or many sides, have caused conflicts. We may find that our ancestors have violently mistreated people of other faiths. But if we are to work towards peace and unity, we must go ahead anyway. We must know, understand, partner with, and understand all our neighbors. And it can be precisely the differences between us that make this endeavor vital, that give us vitality.

Jacques Cousteau, the great oceanographer, said, “However fragmented the world, however intense the national rivalries, it is an inexorable fact that we become more interdependent every day.” If we think we do not all need each other, we are wrong. The spirits and life experiences of people from different faiths and backgrounds can jolt us and awaken us into action. This is where transformation is possible, and where the bright—the vital—future awaits us.

Resources:

MICAH

MIFA is a member of MICAH: Memphis Interfaith Coalition for Action and Hope.

To learn more about this coalition, visit the MICAH website.

To learn more about MIFA’s involvement, contact us.

Congregational Resource Guide

The Congregational Resource Guide provides information about MIFA’s Family programs to assist congregations in making referrals to individuals who seek assistance. View, or download and print, here.

An Appeal to Conscience

Written by the Memphis Ministers Association and published in The Commercial Appeal on February 4, 1968, this plea to the community to observe Race Relations Sunday and to abandon their prejudice in favor of justice is considered one of MIFA’s founding documents. Read the full text here.

Founders Day

Established in 2014, our Founders Day event celebrates our interfaith legacy and recognizes volunteers and donors for their extraordinary service to MIFA.

To learn about previous events, click on the year here:
2014 | 2016 | 2017

For details about this year’s event, click here.

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