by Melissa McKenzie
Standing, arms outstretched and hands clasped with their neighbor’s, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Buddhists and pagans surrounded Santa Clara’s Muslim Community Association (MCA building for Hands Around the Mosque, an interfaith showing of solidarity in support of American Muslims on March 19.
They dressed in Roman collars, robes, yarmulkes and hijabs, wearing cross pendants, signs of support and, in some cases, the bright pink caps associated with the recent Women’s March. It was as much about coming together to support each other as it was a resistance in response to the current administration and its policies against immigrants, refugees and Muslims.
“[We] are standing in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters,” said Father Jon Pedigo, a priest representing the Diocese of San Jose. “We stand with them because an attack on one is an attack against all.”
Pedigo’s sentiment was stressed repeatedly throughout the three-hour event, which included an open view of the Muslim evening prayer and approximately 20 speakers.
“An attack on one community of faith,” said Jonathan Prosnit, associate rabbi of Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos, “is an attack on all communities of faith, and a country that targets Muslims one day, targets Jews the next ... We will hold hands around any mosque, around any temple, around any church, around any synagogue ...This is a moment for our kids and our grandkids. Let’s join together to make this country more perfect in healing this fractured world.”
Reverend Joey Lee, executive presbyter of the San Jose Presbytery, shared his story of growing up as a refugee. He proclaimed, as a protestant, that the community protest division, scapegoating, the idea of a Muslim registry, border walls, and hate crimes that have been met with “a deafening silence from the current administration.”
“We join our hands with yours,” he said. “We stand with you, shoulder to shoulder to declare our solidarity and support for we all are children of God, created in the image of God. We declare that true American values of justice and freedom for all are not a slogan but founding principles of this nation. Justice and freedom for all that is what will make America great again.”
Hosted by MCA and the American Muslim Voice Foundation and supported by approximately 40 partners, including the San Jose’s Peace and Justice Center, Dave Cortese of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, saw hundreds of supporters stand together, uniting against the discrimination and vilification of immigrants, refugees and religion.
First Unitarian Church of San Jose congregation member Shelley Leister showed her solidarity by wearing a hijab.
“I’m here because I’m very opposed to Islamophobia,” she said, adding that she was part of People Acting in Community Together–PACT–an interfaith social justice group. “People were silent in World War II. Silence is complicity and ... together, peacefully, we can resist and we will prevail.”