“People need to stand alongside those who are threatened, denigrated, demonized, marginalized,” Sellers said in condemning an anonymous letter received by the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno on Nov. 28 that threatened to exterminate Muslims.
“Having someone of Dr. Sellers’ caliber – the chair of the world’s largest interfaith organization – come to speak about such a subject at a time when many communities are feeling targeted is just a wonderful opportunity for us all to learn and to broaden our understanding of each other,” said Reza Nekumanesh, director of the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno.
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Sellers shares more with The Bee:
Of the hate letter sent to the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno:
“Social media have given people the chance to be rude and cruel to others with little or no consequence to themselves. It is disturbing to see the loss of respect and human kindness that once characterized our national ethos but that now marks so much of our current discourse.
It is disturbing to see the loss of respect and human kindness that once characterized our national ethos.
“The vitriol which has been a part of our recent national election is emblematic of what happens at the micro level all over our country. … We should openly express our solidarity with our Muslim neighbors through our words and actions. An outcry should go up from those of us who are incensed at such hatred in order to say, ‘Not in our town, not on our campus, not at our church, not here, not ever again!’ ”
Of the national dialogue about Muslims over the past year:
“As a person committed to interfaith relations and one who has many Muslim friends, I am personally offended by his (President-elect Donald Trump’s) tendency to put all Muslims in the same category as those who might be radical terrorists or a danger to our nation and people. This stereotyping of Muslims is wrong, just as it would be wrong to say that all Christians are like members of the Ku Klux Klan who claim to be Christian. …
More and more people in our country seem to feel empowered to express the most base and harmful things to and about those who are different than they, whether ethnically, religiously, culturally, politically, sexually, socio-economically, or in some other way.
“It is certainly the case that much incorrect information and blatant lies are circulated on the Internet, sometimes forwarded by ‘well-meaning’ people, but as bad as it is to receive such material from an uninformed neighbor or even anonymously, it is far worse to hear prejudicial ideas and hate speech from national leaders.”
Of visiting the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno and Fresno State in March:
“The vibrancy of the group that gathered at the Islamic center, as well as the warm welcome I received at the university, helped me to understand that the interfaith community here in Fresno is comprised of highly committed, talented and hard-working people who are serious about dialogue and other ways of bringing peace among the religions.”
Of his upcoming talks and returning to Fresno:
“My Saturday speech will center on refugees and immigrants. This is extremely important for our conversation and reflection, given the intense focus on this issue in the year prior to the election. Many people express a lot of heat about immigration, without a lot of light. What has been forgotten in much of our rhetoric is that immigration is about people, the immigrants – who are part of the human family with us.
What has been forgotten in much of our rhetoric is that immigration is about people, the immigrants – who are part of the human family with us.
“My Sunday speech will be about hate speech, which is also such a critical and relevant topic today. … It would please me so very much if some of the persons who hear me might commit themselves to begin to advocate for the human rights of those who seek to come into our country, as well as to work to change the tenor of our local and national conversation.”
Robert Sellers to talk in Fresno
Saturday: “The Refugee Crisis and Human Rights: Global and Local Perspectives,” 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. during a free Human Rights Day event at Fresno State’s North Gym, Room 118, 5241 N. Maple Ave., Fresno.
Sunday: “Combating Religious Intolerance, Extremism, and Hate Speech, and Promoting Interfaith Harmony,” 4 p.m. at the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno, 2111 E. Nees Ave., Fresno. Suggested $10 donation to support the Human Rights Coalition of the Central Valley. Students are free.
Sponsors: Human Rights Coalition of the Central Valley, Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno, Interfaith Alliance of Central California, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno, Peace Fresno, Fresno Center for Nonviolence, City of Fresno.
Other news: The Parliament of the World’s Religions is working to select a city to host its next international conference, which will be announced in early 2017.