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  • Vanessa Avery

In Solidarity

A statement jointly conceived and written by the Sharing Sacred Spaces New Haven Planning Committee on June 8, 2020


The mission of Sharing Sacred Spaces (SSS) is to build community between diverse religious congregations by sharing the sacredness of space and tradition in the intentional spirit of hospitality, trust, friendship, and solidarity. As a group, we work together to solve common problems that affect all religious communities, through narrow scopes to be sure each religious community feels appropriately included, heard, and properly supported in times of distress.

Though the recent assaults on persons in the black community of late and the resultant protests are not religiously motivated, we nonetheless feel the need to offer our voice of support and solidarity.

SSS New Haven’s project for this year has coincidentally been to create a protocol to actively, tangibly, and spiritually respond to acts of hatred and violence inflicted upon humanity, specifically upon religious persons and/or groups. How do we show up not only as practitioners in solidarity with religious groups but also in solidarity and support to other groups suffering from bias and the misuses of power? How do we stop the hate? And how do we respond when hate roars its head? In our meetings, we’ve worked together to try to figure this out — to determine what such a protocol would look like and how we would respond to such incidents.

The method for our research has first been to listen to each of our participating religious communities in turn. We haven’t heard from all of our groups yet; and we haven’t put it all together yet either. But we wish to outline just some preliminary insights from our discussions so far as time is of the essence.

(We offer here just a summary of some of the results from each of our groups who have presented to this point. For the full force of each presentation, please follow the links to the transcripts at the end of this statement.)

From our Zen Buddhists, we learned that we breathe the same air as those who do and would hate. We are inherently interconnected, and reactions to divide or try to purify will only accomplish the intention of hate.

From our Catholics, we learned how rare it is to have meaningful and vulnerable conversations together, that once we engage in a meaningful conversation we need to share that experience with others, and that hate must be understood as a spiritual sin requiring a fundamentally spiritual solution.

From our Greek Orthodox Christians, we learned that prayer is an act that unites people against or in response to hatred, and that prayer also needs to be put into action.

From our Jewish community, we learned that both routine and spontaneous interactions with different kinds of people on a regular basis, and physically coming together in diverse groups for education, activism, and/or celebrations are paramount to healing from tragedies. Integrated neighborhoods where people walk to one another’s houses, the market, etc., are the best ways to achieve this.

From our Hindus, we learned that “The way to reaching the Lord is open for all living beings, but they must be free from malice toward others (The Bhagavad Gita).” Working to dispel ignorance and detach from egotism, one comes to see the divine that permeates all living beings.

Concluding thoughts:

Though our research tour is not yet complete, certain spiritual and practical insights already emerge from our conversations thus far.

1. We can do a lot on the local level, and even just one-on-one. Regular positive encounters, for example, add up over time. Spontaneous conversations do, too. The conversations might be about music history, they might be directly about hate, or they might be in the form of a hug (see full transcriptions for narratives of these transformational encounters). In any of these forms, authentic encounters are meaningful and can be transformational.

2. We must create deliberate avenues to integrate and interact.

3. We must be able to talk about the tough stuff. We must be willing to be vulnerable, honest, scared, wrong, ugly, beautiful, defensive, angry, ignorant, arrogant, hurt, and utterly and entirely human. Rarely do we evolve without the courage to speak and the willingness to encounter our personal limitations and filters. Spiritual striving demands we do.

4. We must offer and also be willing to receive compassion and caring. Stand with others, and let people stand with you. Release any and all ill will.

5. We must practice or pray to remain centered, balanced, and alert. This is the foundation for a wise response.

6. We must listen deeply. Ignore the voice in our own head and listen from the silence. When you can hear what others are really communicating about their space, you can co-shape it.

7. We must invite others to know and participate in these things.

Which of these will you take on?

Our hearts and prayers rise for the individuals who’ve lost their lives because of the color of their skin; and we offer comfort to the families who’ve experienced such great and tragic loss. We stand in solidarity with black lives.

I sincerely hope that the fruit of our research in the interreligious world is useful in other contexts where hatred and bias has caused so much pain.

Wishing us all God’s peace as we strive to repair our world.

For full coverage of each of the above presentations, please visit:

For the Zen Response to Hate: https://vanessaavery.wordpress.com/2020/03/23/zen-center-how-do-we-respond-to-hate/

For the Catholic Response to Hate: https://vanessaavery.wordpress.com/2020/06/05/a-catholic-response-to-hatred-and-violence/

For the Greek Orthodox Response to Hate: https://vanessaavery.wordpress.com/2020/04/21/acts-against-humanity-how-the-greek-orthodox-church-responds-the-st-nicholas-shrine-and-beyond/

For the Jewish Response to Hate: forthcoming

For the Hindu Response to Hate (virtual event): https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/3vdxPr3spjJLG4nNs2eGGaV_BJ7-X6a813cW_fYJxU4USBhhInCDEQcvsGhobgdh?startTime=1592952186000 / Password: 6S!A?W&1

Still to come:

- The Dixwell Avenue and The United Church of Christ on Responding to Hate

Register for the live event on September 15, 2020

- The Muslim Response to Hate

- The Society of Friends Response to Hate

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