Several weeks ago, I visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis while on our Senior High Justice Journey.  The very first exhibit was called “Unremitting Struggle”.  I wrote that phrase down in my trip journal and thought about it numerous times throughout the week.

Civil rights, justice, and peace—these are all involved in the unremitting struggle to transform our world into a place where everyone is treated equally with love and compassion as a child of God.  The last several weeks have reminded me of just how unremitting this struggle is.  I continue to be stunned by the widespread Islamophobia that has been festering for the past nine years (and more).  With all due respect to the families of 9/11 victims—and all of who have been affected by that turning point in our recent history—I cannot accept the uproar about the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” as anything but blatant bigotry and discrimination.  As for Terry Jones, I can only hope that the rest of the world does not associate Christianity or America with his aborted plans to burn Qurans on Saturday.  The sad and potentially deadly irony of that situation is that some might feel that his misguided faith represents Christianity in the same way that many Americans seem to think that the misguided faith of extremists represents all of Islam.  The entire situation is bewildering.  It is indeed an unremitting struggle.

In the midst of this environment of prejudice, fear, ignorance, and intolerance, religious leaders of all faiths need to be vocal in their opposition to such bigotry, hate mongering, and violence.  With input from various leaders at Fourth Church, I wrote a statement of support and solidarity for our Muslim friends that our Session unanimously endorsed on Friday.  On that same day, my colleague Joyce Shin read this statement at an inter-religious press conference coinciding with the end of Ramadan.  You can see video of the press conference here and read the Session statement here, which I will also post in full below.  My hope and prayer is that more and more religious leaders will unite together with one voice of love, acceptance, tolerance, and cooperation.  It will take us all to overcome this unremitting struggle.

A Statement from the Session
of the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago

September 10, 2010

On this eve of the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in the midst of renewed and intensifying anti-Muslim rhetoric throughout our society, the Session of the Fourth Presbyterian of Chicago stands in solidarity with our Muslim friends in Chicago and beyond. We believe that there is no place in our nation for religious prejudice and bigotry. Muslims, like Americans of any faith, should be free to worship how and where they please. Words and acts fueled by ignorance, hatred, and mistrust against individual Muslims or Islam in general cannot be tolerated in our free society. As a community of faith and as individual religious leaders, we pledge to oppose such bigotry wherever we encounter it.

The radical love and acceptance of Jesus Christ compels us to tear down walls of division and foster mutual understanding with all of God’s children. Fourth Presbyterian Church will continue to work in collaboration with Muslims in our local, national, and global communities. We deeply value our partnerships with Muslim friends in the city of Chicago and feel especially called to demonstrate to them our support and solidarity. We recognize that Muslims are valuable members of our society, contributing to the common good in every possible way. We consider Muslims to be full partners in service and cherished sisters and brothers of the religious family of Abraham. There is more that binds us together than separates us, and we hope that our open arms of support and joined hands of partnership will demonstrate to others the rich potential of interreligious dialogue and collaboration that we hold dear. It is imperative for the future of our nation that citizens of all religious communities and citizens with no religious community learn to live together in harmony and to work together for peace, justice, and prosperity for all.

John W. Vest

John is a "church hacker" attempting to overcome the limitations of church as we know it. To connect with him and learn more about his work, please visit

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