Religion

Here’s how healing and peace are possible post-election

A woman prays before the backdrop of an American flag.
A woman prays before the backdrop of an American flag. swparra@fresnobee.com

On Election Day, a young Mexican American girl from Fresno shared a poster she drew with a beautiful hashtag: #StopTheHate.

She heard presidential candidates say a lot over more than a year and a half of divisive and often cruel campaigning, and much of it frightens her. She’s far from alone.

Fear and anger are on the rise in the aftermath of an election that for some was far more emotional than those of the past because this time, it’s highly personal. Some of the political rhetoric focused on groups of people instead of policies.

You’ve likely heard lots of Democrats lament how voters could agree with or overlook things Donald Trump has said about Mexicans, Muslims, women and blacks, and Republicans say they’re supporting something they hope will make America greater than it’s been over the past eight years.

And now, in a deeply divided nation, we’re all trying to understand how to move forward.

“Words matter,” says Fresno Poet Laureate and Fresno City College English professor Lee Herrick, who offers this advice: “Rethink how you see language, or verbal or language violence, if you will. Even body language can be hostile or threatening. … Expect discomfort. Be patient. Avoid personal attacks. Take baby steps. Don’t accuse. Ask questions. Listen hard. Allow people the right to their trauma. Allow people the right to their joy. Don’t apply the worst stereotype of a group of people to an individual you meet or see. Thirty hours of television or social media doesn’t even come close to the transformative beauty of a good one-hour conversation with someone who looks different than you.”

Spiritual leaders are often thoughtful about mediation, too, and now seems like a more-than-fitting time to call for their help. Here are some of their reflections in the name of healing, peace and prosperity:

Teresa Dominguez, chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno: “Our post-election social climate is clearly unstable, emotionally charged and complicated. Our responses must be carefully considered so our minds and hearts are not hijacked by unbridled emotions. Re-centering ourselves in basic, commonly held values can serve us well, as we navigate our way into an uncertain future. In kindergarten, our children are taught basic rules of social engagement. It is crucially important and a great opportunity for us to now model these values for our children. … Hate and violence only breeds more of the same.”

Imam Seyed Ali Ghazvini of the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno: “Imam Ali, the successor of the Prophet Muhammad, said, ‘Make yourself the measure (for dealings) between you and others. Thus, you should wish for others what you wish for yourself and hate for others what you hate for yourself. Do not oppress as you do not like to be oppressed. Do good deeds for others as you like goodness to be done to you.’ 

Reza Nekumanesh, director of the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno: “A lot of communities are feeling a lot of pain and anxiety about what has happened and what could happen in the near future. The Muslim community, and indeed the religion of Islam itself, was one of the most attacked targets during this year’s presidential campaigns, including that of the president-elect.

“The Southern Poverty Law Center noted that as of Wednesday morning, there had been more than 430 reported instances of hateful harassment since the election. Our women who wear hijab, or a head covering, are visible targets for those who feel empowered to hate and we are vigilant in our need to remain safe. Most importantly, we as Fresnans, as Americans, and most importantly as human beings, need to stand together: black, Latino, white, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, immigrant and native-born, for if we don’t, one by one our rights and our dignity could be stripped away from us.”

Rev. D.J. Criner of Saint Rest Baptist Church and board chairman of Faith in Community: “I call for clergy to pray together and lay aside difference of political parties, racial and social lines to see 2 Chronicles 7:14 come to pass that, ‘Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.’ It’s time for us to stand together against injustice, hate and bound together in love and righteousness.”

Sukaina Hussain, community organizer with Faith in Community: “It’s not enough to say that we should love each other, it is necessary to hold each other accountable to the commitment of defending and protecting targeted communities and taking action to dismantle the forces of oppression and supremacy that have spread widely. Our faith-based effort is to raise the volume on these unheard voices and bring the struggles of these communities to the forefront since they have been forced to be on the margins and now have become the most susceptible to attack.”

Rabbi Rick Winer of Temple Beth Israel: “Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught us that our belief in Jewish tradition necessarily leads to action in pursuit of civil rights. Rabbi Heschel engaged heavily in the pursuit of civil rights and became good friends with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. After marching with King in Selma, Heschel was quoted as saying, ‘For many of us the march from Selma to Montgomery was about protest and prayer. Legs are not lips and walking is not kneeling. And yet our legs uttered songs. Even without words, our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying.’ 

Pashaura Singh Dhillon, education and Sikh awareness coordinator for the Sikh Council of Central California: “We have to get him (Trump) to succeed, because if he succeeds, we succeed. … (Sikhs) believe there is only one creator and we are the creation and there is no difference between color and creed. … I have been all over the world and what I found very interesting is you see people in different costumes and colors and customs and after that, you forget about what people look like and the bond that I find is of humanity. What binds you is not your ethnicity or religion or nationality even, it is a brotherhood of man which is common to us.”

And religious leaders of the world:

Jesus Christ: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

The Dalai Lama: “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

Prophet Muhammad: “Verily, God is compassionate and is fond of compassion, and He gives to the compassionate what He does not give to the harsh.”

Pope Francis, the morning of Nov. 9: “May we make God’s merciful love ever more evident in our world through dialogue, mutual acceptance and fraternal cooperation.”

Carmen George: 559-441-6386, @CarmenGeorge

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