While there was much agreement expressed by the 45 interfaith clergy members who attended Sen. Ben Cardin’s (D-Md.) Aug. 31 meeting on how to unite the community after the violence in Charlottesville, Va., there was also dissent.
While united against President Donald J. Trump’s statement equating white nationalists with the counter protesters at the Virginia rally last month, those attending the 90-minute discussion in Rockville also complained about conditions for their individual communities.
“Why, all of a sudden, does it take one person, one white person, to die, to forget all about the other 19 who were injured,” asked Bishop Paul Walker, of HYOP Life Skills Reentry Program. The death of an African-American doesn’t rile up the community the way the killing of a white person does, he said.
And Lubna Ejaz, co-chair of the County’s Faith Community Working Group, spoke out about how the Muslim community “is targeted because of our religion.” She noted that members of the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring are becoming divided, with some calling for violence to counter the violence against them while others preaching against it, she said.
Cardin said violence against any person or group is wrong, and he placed part of the blame for increased hatred in this country at thefeet of the president. “Charlottesville was a tragic situation,” Cardin said.
“Many of us recognize there is bigotry in our community. We know it. We feel it.”
However, he stressed, the situation “was made much worse by the comments of President Trump,” who equated the white nationalists with the counter protesters.
Cardin praised the faith community for always being there, adding “The government needs to be there too.”
America needs a president who “gives no room for hatred, and that didn’t happen after Charlottesville, and that was, to me, something I never thought I’d see in America,” Cardin said.
Trump’s action “just put additional responsibility on all of us” to counter hatred and welcome diversity, Maryland’s senior senator said.
He called for the end of discriminatory policing, in which African- Americans receive harsher penalties than others, and an end to anti-Semitism and violence against Muslims and immigrants.
Stopping hatred should not be political, Cardin said, noting that he has worked with Republicans, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), on the subject.
During the meeting, Rabbi Charles Arian, of Kehiat Shalom synagogue in Gaithersburg, suggested that Trump be required to handwrite the U.S. Constitution the way Jews are commanded to handwrite the Torah “so we can be assured”
Trump has at least read the Constitution.
Cardin, who clearly thought that was a good idea, also called on Trump “to give up building this wall” between Mexico and the United States and instead use the money to end hunger, build affordable housing and improve community relations.
Several clergy members cited the need for interfaith meetings and dinners so people of different backgrounds can get to know each other.
The Rev. Mansfield Kaseman, interfaith community liaison for Montgomery County and moderator for the event, called education a key. “We are still on the whole very parochial,” he said.
“People are at risk today,” Cardin said. “I leave here with the understanding we’ ve got a lot of work to do.”