Thursday, March 22, 2007

It is that Time and Place

Anyone that has birthed children or claimed any children as theirs knows what it means to want the best in life for them, and that is,for them to find their place in life and to be happy. We want to always protect our children from the encroaching "evils" of the world, and whatever that means in our lives and culture. The evil of violence. The evil of drugs. The evil of woundedness. So as I read my class assignments that recount the religious conflicts in India I am distressed. I am distressed because I know that the most vulnerable segments of the population are disproportionately affected even if that reality is not indicated in the popular media. But it is like that all around the world - women, children, elderly, infirmed and disabled are the victims of violence and hegemonic governments and yet we are not always aware of the insidiousness of such violence and repression. The mothers and fathers in Iraq cry out for their murdered children. The mothers and fathers in Darfur and Ethiopia and Mozambique cry out for their dying and hungry children. These children are our children. Until we care as much about these losses as we care about our own children's welfare there will continue to be wars and poverty and neglect. Let us not continue mindlessly down the path of ignorance and apathy. We cannot do everything but we do not have to be stymied because there is so much to do. We can make a difference in the world.

I wrote the following poem when my daughter called me one day in her second year of law school. She felt she was not going to be able to continue. She felt unsure of herself. She questioned her ability to compete and to marshall her inner resources. The words in this poem are the words I spoke to her as I called forth the power of God and the ancestors to claim the power that she needed to get through her crisis of doubt. Sometimes it is about that. We have to call on our support system, our friends and loved ones, our spiritual practices and whatever the Sacred means to us to get us through our crises so that we can continue the work that we have been called to do.

I pray that I live to see the day when parents do not have to fear for their children's lives. That they can put their energy into other things because war will no longer be a threat. May we work to draw that time closer. May we learn from the lessons of those that have come before us and study war no more.
Amen and Blessed Be!

It is that Time and Place

It is now time to call on the memories of the ancestors when they thought they could not walk another step toward freedom - and they did;

It is that time and place to call on the memories of the ancestors when the darkness of their live threatened to take away any inkling of hope and light, and they reached a little deeper and prayed still another prayer to get them through the long nights to witness still another sunrise.

It is that time and place to remember the oceans of tears shed to deliver us to this time, to remember the bent knees and bowed backs and the fervent voices asking, begging to keep loved ones safe and delivered from the hands of slavery and the violence of their everyday lives.

It is time to remember the smiles and warmth shown though they had far less, and little reason for optimism and yet they stayed on the path toward a better tomorrow.

It is time to hold fast to the unchanging hands and hearts and prayers of the ancestor that have brought us this far; Tthat taught us about a God who was able and bigger than lifes vicissitudes

It is time to make them proud and show ourselves what we are made of. To show them that their prayers and sacrifices and lives were not in vain, and did not go unnoticed and have not been forgotten.

Did you not know that this day would come? Did we not know that we would have to change places and be the ones praying for and working for better times? Did we not know that just as our ancestors were delivered that we would also be delivered?

Have we not seen the greatness and power of the Creative energy in the Universe called God? Have not seen God in one anothers faces? Does not God make a way out of no way? Do we not know who we are and whose we are?

It is that time and place now to know so that we must leave a legacy for our children and for all the children. It is that time and that place.

Baby, we are the ones we've been waiting for. And for this let us be eternally grateful.

Thank you Lord. Thank you Yawa. Thank you mother/father/God. Thank you Shango. Thank you Allah. Thank you Buddha. Thank you Ja. Thank you Jehova. Thank you Obatula. Thank you Krisna. Thank you I AM. Thank you Creative Energy in the Universe - the Morning Glory and the Setting Sun.

Afanasii Nikitin: The Account of a Russian Convert to Islam in 1468

For a fascinating read of a Russian trader whose travels took him all over parts of the then Ottoman Empire and his encounters with Islam view the following:

His account is certainly one of the earliest I have read. It caused me to reflect on the various ways that Islam was spread and how individuals lives interface then and now in very pragmatic ways. There are times that one cannot tell whether he converted to facilitate his business endeavors or if his heart genuinely was inspired by Islam. See for yourself and tell me what you think?

My Spiritual Journey

Today I woke up thinking about this blog that has become the recipient of my writings and my reflections as I prepare for the next phase of my life. Below is a very brief account of my spiritual journey. I have sought and successfully integrated those parts of my Christian background that I desire. Now in this phase of my life I seek to do the same with those Islamic experiences and theology that fit. This class, Islam in India is the path by which I am beginning that journey. Unlike most religions, Unitarian Universalism encourages us to seek truth and build our theology. I have done so with passion and integrity. May Spirit be pleased with my efforts.

My Spiritual Journey

There have been three faith communities and four denominations that have influenced my life. The faith communities in a chronological order include Christianity, Islam and Unitarian Universalism. The denominations include the aforementioned ones and Religious Science. This essay will focus primarily on Christianity and Religious Science. I grew up in a large two parent working class family with a deeply devout mother who was a Preachers Kid (PK). We “kept the Sabbath” and were not allowed to play, listen to music, perform work on God’s day for many years. Gradually my mother loosened up. I spent the first seventeen years of my life all day in church on Sundays and part of the week that included prayer meetings and choir rehearsal at the very least. I was a deeply devout child that loved being good and doing good and I loved church. For not only did it feed something inside that gravitated toward the sacred and holy, but it represented my extended family and my only real social outlet outside of school and my immediate neighborhood for many years. Until I began college at Wayne State University in Detroit where I grew up, I led a very sheltered life. As far as I can remember, I didn’t know any atheists or agnostics. I thought everybody believed in God even if everybody did not attend church. When I began Wayne State University I met student activists and intellectuals who were brilliant orators and debaters and many were agnostics and atheists. That was when I began my "God is dead" period. My childhood churches, first Mt. Huron Baptist church and later Greater St. Stephens Missionary Baptist Church, did not prepare me for engaging brilliant men and women who had the gift of gab and could easily challenge everything I said. Baptists were not big on questioning their beliefs and rote learning was pretty much the order of the day. So I had no answers for their questions. So I sat God on a shelf and proceeded to get on with my life. But how does one do that when their world view has been turned upside down? So I became an activist because that was something that I could hold onto and the example of Jesus was consistent with what I had learned and was now learning about justice issues. Coming from a poor working class background it was also an easy leap to Marxist Leninism. His sympathy for the poor and downtrodden and alignment with the workers at the point of production paralleled my life as the child of a father working in the steele mill at the Ford River Rouge Plant. I do not do anything halfheartedly so I traveled to Cuba for three months in 1972. That trip was a transformative experience in my life. We were selected from young activists all over the country. Some of the then young activists who today are household names were at the early stages of what would prove to be illustrious careers in social change. Individuals like Robert Allen (I have forgotten what he wrote, something about Race in America) but he was the long time companion of Alice Walker, although they were not together then) and Linda Burnham, a now well now attorney and social activist, were two individuals on the Brigage.

When I returned, I was feeling really restless as I rode in from the airport in New Jersey and the bright lights were illuminating my deepest fear and that was that I might not be able to sustain my passion and practice back in Babylon. I longed for a spiritual connection. I was very alienated from Christianity and so I knew that I would not be exploring that path. I liked the Afro centric philosophy of the Muslims and their emphasis on self sufficiency and Black economics. So I made my way to the nearest mosque and began the journey of a devout Muslima, moving through various sects for the next ten years before settling into the Sufi tradition. When some of the restrictions of living as a religious minority began to alienate me from my children, thus forcing difficult parenting choices I decided that I was spiritual and a good person before I became Muslim and that I would continue my journey. So I left the Muslim community in Ann Arbor, MI. That was a very difficult decision and I did not realize that my standing in the Muslim community and my leadership as a Muslima was based on the fact that I was a Muslim and not because I was a serious human being on a journey toward God. It didn't help that I had agreed to an interview with a reporter that took my words out of context and it appeared from the article that I had said that converts to Islam, particularly AFrican-American Muslims and Muslims from abroad worshipped different Gods. I also more than hinted at the racism. That coupled with my decision to cease practicing Islam was the kiss of death for me. Of course people were praying for me. I never realized that it one thing to request people's prayers and it is another thing for them to perceive you needing their prayers because in their opinion you are living in sin. I resented these self righteous prayers. It was a horrible time for me but I knew that somehow I had to step away and reclaim my perspective and regroup for my spiritual journey that lay ahead.

So I graduated from the University of Michigan where otherwise I have some fond memories and my children were exposed to a supportive academic community and the Muslim community that nurtured and financially supported us through undergraduate and graduate school. I began attending a non-denominational church in Atlanta where I moved after graduation. I joined, Hillside International Truth Center, pastored by Dr. Barbara King. I was working in the field of domestic violence and she led the prayer for a breakfast for law enforcement in Clayton County, where I worked.She started the prayer, "Mother, Father, God" and I thought - who is this woman and how do I find her church? I later joined because I loved the “power of positive thinking” combined with the sense of self agency and the theology that perceived God as energy and divine law that responded to our application of law. The current craze around the movie, The Secret, is a personification of those beliefs. However, I dreaded the thought of someone finding out that I did not believe that Jesus was the son of God or some of the other idiosyncratic beliefs left over from my Muslim faith that I continue to hold onto. Possessing the conscious and unconscious notion that I could “build my own theology” and that this was indeed pleasing to God and not blasphemy placed me in an awkward spiritual limbo. I stayed at Hillside for a year or two until my work schedule restrictions precluded my attendance at that or any church.

In the meantime I did the "Fire walk" that was popularized in the new age community. If you can get your head around walking across a burning bed of glowing coals then you can harness your mind to do almost anything. Many years previously, using the same kind of mentality for my 30th birthday I asked myself what was the most kick ass kind of thing I could do to tap my inner power and push the fears away (and I had a lot). By then I was a single mom with two children living on poverty wages. This as before returning to school. So I went sky diving! Sometimes even now when I get scared I remind myself that I jumped out of a plane and I have walked on burning coals. And I talk myself, pray myself and push myself through my fears. I have given up thinking that I can disappear all my fears. The most I can do sometimes is simply not let them paralyze me or hold me hostage. So I proceed - fears and all!

In the process of all my searchings I moved to a part of town where it wasn’t practical to drive across town to worship. When I examined my options which included every possible denomination I decided I wanted to check out Unitarian Universalists. That was fifteen years ago. In some ways my journey has been preparing me all my life for ministry, but I formally began that process in 2003. This year, 2007 I will finish Meadville Lombard Theological School, receive fellowship on December 1 and ordination, December 9 and in January, 2008 I will move to either Cape Town South Africa to begin my academic and ministerial careers. My plan is to affiliate with the University of Cape Town as a visiting scholar in either their Religious Studies Department and/or their Gender Studies Department. Also, the Unitarian Congregation in Cape Town is currently in search for a minister. How awesome is that? I would love to be called by them and work to bring Unitarian Universalism and "Beloved Community" with a focus on interfaith social justice as my ministry and gift. What would be blessed to receive is far more than I could even express. Isaiah 6:8 expresses it like this, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" and I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

Blessed Be!

Unitarianism in the Khasi Hills of India

I have been studying about Muslims in India and the religious diversity as well as the religious conflicts. I would be remiss if I did not share information about the 9,000 Unitarians in India that I share my faith tradition with. I hope to one day visit them and learn more about them in their natural setting. I have met a couple who came to the United States to study.

History In A Nutshell
Written by Administrator
Monday, 12 April 2004
Unlike other Christian denominations Unitarianism was
not brought to the Khasi Hills by the Missionaries
from the West, but it was started by a youthful Khasi
whose name is Hajaom Kisor Singh Lyngdoh Nongbri.
Unitarianism in Khasi Jaintia Hills and Karbi Anglong
District in Assam, like any of its sisters in faith in
different parts of the World is a unique religion with
an equally unique beginning. The late eighteenth and
early nineteenth century khasi-jaintia society
witnesses an emergent of giants and stalwarts of khasi
intellectuals and the doyen of Khasi literature in the
like of Babu Soso Tham, Pahep R.S. Berry, Nissor Singh
and his brother u Babu Hajom Kissor Singh, the list is
however by no mean exhausted. The mentioned
personalities were great littérateurs and of these
H.K. Singh was not only poet par excellence but he is
also religious reformer in his own right. Born to a
Khasi family whose father was an employee of the
mighty British Empire, the Singhs along with few of
their contemporary were perhaps few lucky educated
khasis. It is said that in those days one can count on
one’s hand the numbers of educated khasis and
H.K.Singh was able to complete his Entrance
examination(equivalent to class 10). H.K. Singh though
born a Khasi was converted to Calvinist faith along
with the whole family while he was studying at a
school in Nongsawlia Sohra. He being an educated and
an ardent quest for spiritual truth was well
acquainted with the traditional animist religion and
read his Bible thoroughly. He read the sacred text
from cover to cover and found that the Bible has only
reinforced his belief in one God, which in fact is a
belief not alien to the Khasis. His studies of the
Bible particularly the Gospels convinced him that
Jesus himself; a true Jews to the last worshiped one
God, which he called Abba. At the same time H.K. Singh
though he discovered that even the Bible and Jesus
teaches about the existence of one true God which is
similar to the belief followed by the Khasi, he
however is reluctant to go back to the Niamtynrai/Seng
Khasi (traditional animist religion) fold for other
theological intricacies.
H.K.Singh was struggling with the new truth that he
had discovered, he was in search of faith or religion,
which worship one true God as well free human from the
bondage of other super natural deities and at long
last his search led him to his goal. By divine
providence he met one Brahmo from (member of Brahmo
Samaj) from Kolkata on a visit to Shillong who
introduced him to Rev. C.H.A. Dahl a Unitarian
Missionary of the American Unitarian stationed at
Kokata (Calcutta). Singh’s contact with Dahl was like
the proverbial ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ and
the correspondence between the two has indeed greatly
influenced Singh. The communication between H.K.Singh
and C.H.A. Dahl came to an end only in the demised of
the later, which had shocked Singh and ironically the
tragedy happens only two months before Unitarianism in
this Hills saw the light of the day. H.K. Singh
inspite of all odds went ahead with his plan and
started “Ka Niam Mane Wei Blei” Unitarianism in the
Khasi Jaintia and Karbi Anglong on the 18th of
September 1887.

Violence, Religion and Ethnicity

One of the most powerful pieces I have read on violence and religion is an essay by Brian Sandberg titled, Beyond Encounters: Religion, Ethnicity, and Violence in the Early Modern Atlantic World, 1492-1700. It is fairly short, twenty-three pages and packed with expanded information about religious violence that many of us have intuited but now have confirmation because of his rigorously researched essay. My dream is to one day write a similar essay covering 1700 to our current times.

The essay can be found at:

Standing on the Side of Love

I wrote this essay to express why the faith community should be involved in social justice issues rather than playing it safe and being reclusive.

This paper addresses the critical question of why religious institutions should be engaged with public issues and how they might do so most effectively. The question of engagement is at the heart of the faith community’s relevance today as it grapples with connecting to the needs of individuals and society in such complex times. This paper will consider the sources that affirm religious institutions engagement in public issues. The paper then considers specific strategies for public witnessing utilizing lecture notes from the recent course taught by Bill Schultz titled, Problems of Public Ethics at Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago, Illinois and also drawn from his book, In Our Own Best Interest.
Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is. --Ghandhi

Many religious scholars maintain that religion functions for the well being of people. Among these scholars, John S. Mbiti asserts that morality facilitates harmony, control and enhancement of its institutions and individuals. Furthermore, Mbiti contends that religion protects the individual members and the survival of society. Rob Eller-Isaacs, Unitarian Universalist minister, recently defined the purpose of the church as follows, “To help engender the holy in people’s lives so that they might blossom into compassion and grow souls.” Eller-Isaacs suggests that Unitarian Universalist congregations are called to “transform suffering in their midst and in the world.” Similarly, Roger S. Gottlieb professes the following, “authentic religion must be an activist transforming presence in the political world; that the moral and psychological insights of religion are of enormous value for those seeking progressive social change.” Gottlieb, while asserting that religious groups in the twentieth century have not had to confront oppression, nevertheless maintains that religious voices are needed to “achieve the goals of justice, community and a rational society.” According to A. Kevin Rheinhart, individuals will be judged for their acts done or undone. We might extrapolate from the perspectives articulated by these authors that if it is the responsibility of individuals to act morally, it is also incumbent upon the religious institutions whose responsibility it is to provide spiritual guidance to do so in as public a manner as is possible whereby impacting the greatest number possible.
Returning to Roger S. Gottlieb, he contends that authentic religion must be a transforming presence in the world. One can extrapolate from Gottlieb’s contentions that in order for religion to be a transforming presence that they must be effectively engaged in the world to do so. Gottlieb identified some concrete ways that religion can be liberating. Upon close examination, they all presume involvement in public issues:
1. First and foremost it (religion) must change, develop and progress.
2. must be rooted in its own traditional ethical teachings
3. must learn to connect passionately held ethical beliefs to our political situation and to collective movements to change that situation
4. reach outside (of itself)
6. be willing to break with the past
Liberation theologians ascribe to the belief that God is known through the doing of justice. Thus, we could speculate that they would endorse public witnessing as a way to do justice, thus experiencing God. Virtue ethicists embrace the belief that our actions reflect who we are. Thus, they also would endorse public witness as a way to reflect values. Additionally, religious institutions should be engaged with public issues because they can legitimately serve as the moral authority, the voice in the wilderness, that prophetic voice warning of grave dangers – that is, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur. They can provide the early warning signs through their prophetic messages. Case in point, the lack of will that failed to provide resources to the people of Darfur might have been circumvented if the moral outrage of the religious community had been in place to send out a call to stand up for what is deemed right and just. Again, part of the role of religious leaders is to be the moral compass of society. Personally, I believe that one of the basic roles of religious institutions is to call individuals into solidarity with others in order to transcend the tendency toward self interest. What better way than through public witness. Rob Eller-Isaacs contends that the purpose of the church is to engender the experiences of the holy in order to awaken compassion and foster a life of loving service. Thus, creating a spirit filled life would require that religious institutions be engaged in public witnessing. One of the primary contributions of feminist theologians is the rewriting of Christian theology to transform the concepts, methods, language and imagery into a more liberatory message depicting women’s realities. Additionally, many theologians of different persuasions would endorse the public engagement of religious institutions as a way to put their “faith in action.” Two final endorsements for public engagement by religious institutions are derived from two Black sources, Black literary tradition and the historical Black Church. The mission of every serious Black writer is hinted at in the poignant articulation by late author, Toni Cade Bambara. Her goal when writing is to “produce stories that save our lives.” Similarly, religious institutions mission is to save lives. Implied in that is the ability to reach individuals by being an outwardly focused institution that moves beyond the limited walls of its physical edifice and even beyond its denominational walls. Thus, in the twenty-first century, interfaith dialogue will be critical to changing the world. Three Black theologians that were committed to justice and love, community relatedness and altering oppressive situations were Thurman Howard, Martin Luther King, Jr and Al Haj Malik Shabazz (AKA Malcolm X). By their very ministries we can surmise their belief that being fully present to life’s conditions requires public engagement. We oftentimes foist that responsibility onto our “superstars” but were we to assume the attitude that we are all leaders we might live our lives differently.
. . . I always believe that struggle and the unleashing of moral energy in the form of moral outrage can make a difference no matter what the situation is. . . (Cornel West)
This next section contains quotes from several faith traditions that explicitly or inexplicitly support engagement in public issues:
Do not touch the property of orphans, but strive to improve their lot until they reach maturity. Give just weight and full measure. . . Speak for justice, even if it affects your own kinsmen. Be true to the covenant of Allah. . . (Sura:6, Ayats: 151-152)

Not one of you believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself. (The Prophet Muhammad, 13th of the 40 Hadiths of Nawawi)

To work along you have the right, but never personally to the fruits thereof. Do not be actuated by the motive for return, do not be sunk in inaction. (Bhagavad Gita)

Be ours a religion which, like sunshine, goes everywhere: its temple, all space; its shrine, the good heart; its creed, all truth; its profession of faith, divine living. (Theodore Parker, 19th Century Unitarian Universalist minister)

As long as I have will and am physically capable, So long will I teach mankind to strive for truth, order and peace. (Zoroasrian scriptures – The Yasna)

This essay has reviewed arguments supporting religious institutions engagement in public issues. Are there arguments opposed to religious engagement in public issues? Those that are opposed might argue for the separation between church and state. These opponents would point to the extremes like Jerry Falwell to make their case. Other detractors might point to the “Faith-Based Initiatives” endorsed by the Bush Administration. This Initiative merges church and state to provide social services through faith community’s receipt of public subsidies for such services as after-school programs for children, job training, drug treatment, prison rehabilitation and abstinence education. The effort is based on a concept known as “charitable choice” that allows the government to fund churches and other ministries. In essence they are religious institutions engaged in public issues representing conservative solutions to social problems. Thus, charitable choice is a government endorsement of religious institutions engagement in public issues.
It is important to remember that religious institutions serve as bridges to a new and expanded humanity. As part of that bridge building, religious institutions can facilitate the long arc of the universe which we are told and know bends toward justice. However, that long arc of justice requires conscious intent on the part of religious institutions and cannot happen without their engagement in the world. Thus it is incumbent upon religious institutions to engage with public issues to enlarge the vision of humanity’s service to the world. Reverend John Heagle, a Roman Catholic priest, psychotherapist and writer reminds us that if we are seriously committed to the mission of our faith communities that we need to develop effective responses to put our faith into action on behalf of justice. In the end, our religious institutions help to shape and inform our decision making about our engagement in public issues. I believe that in order to live out those values our religious institutions must be engaged in the larger world, thus bringing a message of hope and renewal to the suffering and poor. The central narrative of the church of liberation, justice, reconciliation and peace requires moral ethics and practice of our faith. Rebecca Todd Peters succinctly states it this way, “Living as justice were our calling is a critical way of defining what it means to be human.” Our religious institutions have a duty to be at the fore front of efforts to teach the meaning of humane actions in an increasingly inhumane world.
In the next section this essay will examine how religious institutions can effectively engage public issues.
Effective Engagement
In a democratic society one of the most obvious ways to engage public issues is through the use of the democratic process. Engaging the democratic process is a viable and effective way to shape public opinions and policy and thus represents an important vehicle to be utilized by the faith community. Effective engagement involves strategies that include a community coordinated response addressing both the macro and micro levels. Once a congregation decides that religious institutions should be engaged in public issues the board and minister should include a component in the long range planning to solicit feedback on what particular issues members feel they want to put their human and fiscal resources behind. Once that is decided then creating a body of individuals to gather the necessary resources to focus on educating the congregation is an important step. Identifying others already doing this work is a crucial component in this phase of the work. Content experts and activists will be invaluable resources to effectively address the issues.
Effective public witness should involve sufficient advance preparation that invites questions such as the following: 1) what do we believe about this issue and why do we believe it? 2) how can we best persuade others about the efficacy of supporting this issue? 3) what are the foundational stories of those we are in opposition with? Finding ways to unpack the issues and getting people to address these questions are critical. Any conversation with others should begin with introspective components to allow for a groundedness and maximize self awareness first with your members before engaging others. This includes rigorous interrogation about ones motive for doing the work. Posing the question, “What does this mean to me?” is an important start. Getting rid of negative influences like paternalism, guilt and elitism will make more effective advocates with fewer buttons that can get pushed in public debates. Additionally, understanding the issues will ensure competency and confidence.
The scope of this essay does not allow the time to devote to coalition building. While building coalitions in the larger community is time consuming, it assures broad base support so that you are not engaging in individualist lone ranger tactics. So while who you know is important when identifying speakers or gathering references for a resume, having the ability to garner sheer numbers speaks volumes to politicians. Also, nothing is more depressing than a straggly group of demonstrators with ten or fifteen chanting slogans. An old maxim, Go big or don’t go at all, is appropriate here and nothing else needs to be said. Many of our congregations want to either be hit and miss or unwilling to commit to “protracted struggle.” We must know that we are in this struggle for justice and human rights for a life time.
As your congregation moves to public forums, Bill Schultz reminds us that one of the most effective ways to undercut an opponent’s argument is to be able to articulate their issues before they do. Also, framing the issue in ways that is attractive and provides appeal beyond our religious community is important if we want to recruit new allies. We also need to be able to engage the best of the American ideals. For example, pride in America is highly valued. Being able to juxtapose these values with dissident behaviors like recently publicized human rights violations at Abu Grave or Guantanamo Bay invites the use of a statement like, “this is not what we want our country to be known for.”
Identifying pragmatic arguments is another important strategy to be linked with telling stories about exploitation and inhumanity. This allows others to vent their moral outrage and simultaneously indulge their human compassion. It also allows for effective integration of statistics. Schultz reminds us that, “one death is a tragedy and a million deaths is a statistic.” If we want to be effective and not come across as lecturers of boring statistics, then we have to put human faces to our statistics and witnessing, hence the effectiveness of story telling.
This essay concludes with a tool kit of tips on effective public engagement edited in

part from Bill Schultz’s book entitled, In Our Own Best Interests:

1. Moral suasion and law, that is, appeal to conscience and resorting to court reflect very effective strategies. World opinion counts- use it. However, they are best used in conjunction with number two;
2. Develop compelling practical reasons why people should care about and support the issue. What impact does this issue have on individuals in your audience and who is your intended audience?
3. Maximize use of technology. Email and internet have linked advocates with their constituencies in ways that level some communication playing fields. Use it to your advantage to build capacity, transparency and to strengthen coalition efforts. The educational and training implications have not even begun to be explored.
4. Nearly every movement for social change in the United States has combined a moral, religious or aesthetics dimension with a pragmatic rationale to win public approval. Framing your mission in both visionary and practical terms will go a long way toward your effectiveness.


More and more the world is coming in and shrinking. The global village is here at hand and the consciousness of the world is expanding tremendously. Religious institutions must be ready in these fragile and vulnerable times to assume a leadership role as spiritual guides on this journey toward a just and equitable world. They must be engaged with public issues as well as interfaith dialogue and modeling to the world what the best in humanity looks like as they contribute to the critical thinking of the times. Anything less will simply not do.