Two developments in Nebraska are sending laudable messages about our society’s need to stand up against bigotry and promote tolerance and respect.
First, the Tri-Faith Initiative in Omaha continues its work to promote interfaith dialogue and understanding. Christians, Jews and Muslims gathered Sunday to dedicate an orchard, community garden and bridge on the Pacific Street campus that includes a synagogue, a mosque and a church.
The circular bridge crosses a creek and connects all three religious centers, allowing members of the three faiths to walk between buildings. It’s a fitting symbol of our connections as Americans across lines of religious belief. Freedom of religion, after all, is safeguarded in the very first amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Omaha’s interfaith initiative stands as a model for our country in the face of virulent anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim rhetoric online and, worst of all, violent attacks on houses of worship here and abroad.
Second, a wide range of Nebraska state lawmakers have commendably come together to sign a resolution making clear that white nationalism, anti-Semitism and other forms of hate-based violence are beyond the pale. State Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha introduced the resolution in the wake of the April 27 attack on a California synagogue. A 19-year-old gunman is charged with killing 60-year-old Lori Kaye and injuring three people — the rabbi, a 34-year-old man and an 8-year-old child — as they worshipped on the last day of the Passover holiday.
The shooter posted a lengthy online manifesto expressing hate for Jews and Muslims. He wrote that he took inspiration from the 2018 shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue and the March assault on two New Zealand mosques that left 50 people dead.
Hunt’s resolution expresses condolences to and solidarity with the California synagogue members and speaks out strongly against hate-focused violence and conspiracy-mongering. An impressive number of state senators — Hunt plus 38 others in the 49-member Legislature — have signed the resolution. The co-sponsors range fully across the Legislature’s philosophical gamut, including fervent liberals and staunch conservatives.
“White supremacy and white nationalism are contrary to the ideals of the United States of America,” the resolution states. Our nation “was established according to the principle stated in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal, a principle that was updated in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, to include all people.” Our society has sometimes fallen short in following that guidepost, the resolution says, but the need for justice for all is a vital principle.
The resolution affirms that the Legislature “condemns racist violence and domestic terrorist attacks motivated by white supremacy and white nationalism” and “rejects groups that espouse racism, extremism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, white supremacy and white nationalism as hateful groups of intolerance contrary to the values of Nebraskans.”
Exactly so. The lawmakers are promoting an admirable statement of beliefs. And the Tri-Faith Initiative is putting those principles into action. These are admirable, much-needed messages for our state and nation.