- Put our first and second principles into action by welcoming refugees, participating in marches and looking to find common ground with those we disagree with;
- Intentionally reach out to and work with other faith groups to combat ignorance;
- Accept and continue the work when setbacks occur.
We do this because we believe we are stronger together.
Unitarian Universalists are no strangers to struggle. From Selma to Standing Rock, in the US to affirming the right to die with dignity 1973, and affirming abortion rights in 1980 in Canada.
Despite this history, however, the times we live in today often seem particularly challenging. In the months following the 2016 US election, the climate of fear and hate that seems to have arisen in the US has many people wondering “could it happen here?” With the February 2017 shooting at a Quebec City mosque, some worry it already has.
Canadian Unitarians may be wondering how our faith and our commitment to justice, diversity, and inclusion should inform our response. Here are some ways we can act:
Remember our principles and sources
Our first principle affirms the inherent worth and dignity of every person, while our second calls on us to practice justice, equity and compassion in human relations. Taken together, these principles serve as a powerful reminder that all human lives matter – including people of colour, members of the LGBTQ community, refugees, undocumented immigrants, and many other groups who may feel particularly at risk. By providing welcoming congregations, by offering refugee sponsorship, by participating in the January 2017 Women’s Marches, and through many other initiatives, Canadian Unitarians have and must continue to live out our principles by being on the side of love.
This is difficult and necessary when it comes to those with whom we disagree. We must strive not to see those who hold opposing views as the enemy, but must maintain the courage of our convictions while keeping an open mind and seeking to find areas of common ground.
Work with other faith groups
Unitarians were active participants in the January 2017 Women’s March on Washington D.C. and in many other cities, but they were far from alone. People from Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, and other backgrounds came together to act for human rights and against bigotry and discrimination.
Unitarians were proud to march with members of other faiths in the civil rights campaigns of the 1950s and 60s, and it’s equally important that we show up today. Indeed, getting to know members of other faiths better may be the single most important thing we can do to combat ignorance. Many UU congregations already have relationships with local mosques, but for those that don’t, now is the time to establish one. Consider organizing an event, such as a prayer vigil or an intergenerational meal, and invite members of local mosques, synagogues, temples, and churches. It’s also important to reach out to those of no faith or the “spiritual but not religious” to show them the valuable role organized religion can play in working for social justice. Sharing stories of multifaith action on Facebook is a great way to spread the word without seeming to evangelize.
Don’t lose sight of history
While the present era may seem uniquely challenging, it’s important to bear in mind that it is by no means the only time in history when Unitarians – and indeed, humanity – have faced difficult circumstances. We survived World War II and the Cold War, and there’s reason to believe we will prevail again. It’s also worth remembering that the struggles for women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and many other causes have rarely gone in a straight line, and setbacks have accompanied every seeming step forward.
The CUC, for instance, passed a resolution in 1978 calling for an end to discrimination based on sexual orientation, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that most provinces began to amend their laws. Few could have predicted then, however, that same-sex marriage would be legalized across the country in 2005, a move Unitarians had worked hard for and which had five Canadian Unitarian youth from Calgary parading on Parliament Hill with a 500-foot rainbow banner.
As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice”.
We are stronger together.
Written by Kenzie Love for the CUC National Voice Team. Kenzie is a freelance journalist and a member of the Unitarian Church of Calgary. The CUC National Voice Team consists of the President of the CUC Board, the President of the UU Ministers of Canada, and the CUC Executive Director.