South Carolina religious leaders encouraged inclusiveness on Tuesday after a leading presidential candidate proposed banning Muslims from entering the country and many politicians announced their opposition to letting Syrian refugees resettling in the United States.
Members of Interfaith Partners of South Carolina said they want residents to know the state has a heritage of different religions coexisting.
“We have a very large and very vibrant faith-based state here,” said Will Moreau Goins, chairman of Interfaith Partners and representing Native American Spirituality.
During January, Interfaith Partners, which aims to foster understanding and cooperation among religious groups, will hold events encouraging interaction between South Carolinians with different religious backgrounds as part of the fourth Interfaith Harmony Month.
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The events range from a Baha’i devotional service to Native American winter storytelling.
Leaders encouraged understanding at a time when Muslims are being singled out based on the acts of extremist groups.
Muslims have lived peacefully in South Carolina for three centuries, said Carl Evans, a Christian and past president of Interfaith Partners. Now, the fear of extremists is feeding suspicion, fear, hostility, hateful speech, and demands for exaggerated scrutiny against an entire religious population, he said reading a statement adopted by the Interfaith Partners board.
For example, leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump proposed a temporary ban on Muslim travelers from entering the United States in the wake of attacks in Paris and California.
“Misinformation is rooted in fear that is being spread around our country,” Evans said, adding that fear is spread by some presidential candidates for political gain.
Chaudhry Sadiq, a Muslim, said that Trump’s narrow-mindedness means the New York billionaire does not deserve to be an American leader. Sadiq said he condemns extremist terrorists who claim to represent Islam.
Evans, a retired University of South Carolina religion professor, said that peace in America depends on people valuing diversity without perceiving differences as a threat.
In addition, Interfaith Partners welcome Syrian refugees fleeing death and destruction of a civil war in their home country, he said.
S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley has requested that Syrians not be allowed to relocate in the state because of security concerns. However, two Syrian refugees have been resettled in Richland County, and a larger family of 11 refugees is expected to follow.
Haley, who was raised a Sikh but later converted to Christianity, signed a proclamation declaring January Interfaith Harmony Month.
People often fear others who are different or have different customs and traditions, Evans said.
“The way to overcome that, we think, is to cross religious lines to become friends and neighbors of people of other faiths.”
Interfaith Harmony Month
Some of the events planned in Columbia:
▪ Women of Many Faiths discussion, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Jan. 14 at 2020 Assembly St.
▪ Teen Interfaith Service Weekend, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Jan. 16 at 2701 Heyward St.
▪ Opening Ceremony of a Season for Non-Violence, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Jan. 30 at1801 Legrand Rd.
Full list of events: www.interfaithpartnersofsc.org