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Interfaith Inform: April 19, 2022
Kaufman Interfaith Institute


Interfaith Insight
Doug Kindschi
Director, Kaufman Interfaith Institute, GVSU
Taking responsibility for what we know is wrong
“As we as a community sit with the pain, the trauma, the questions, the anger of the police shooting of Patrick Lyoya, these holy seasons and sacred occasions ought to draw us into that reality and the work that lies before us and within us.”
These words from my colleague, Kyle Kooyers, were shared last Friday on our monthly radio segment on the Morning Show with Shelley Irwin at WGVU-FM. We noted the coincidence of the religious observances of Passover, Holy Week, and Ramadan, as well as many religious holidays from other traditions that were all occurring this month.    
How do we in the midst of these holy days make sense of this tragic killing of an immigrant to our community at the hands of a policeman?
Patrick’s father, Peter Lyoya, brought his family here in 2014 as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He said through an interpreter, “We came from Africa, and I knew that here in America we came for peace, we came for protection. (But) there was no safety here for Patrick.” 
While at Passover we celebrate freedom, and Christians celebrate life overcoming death, there is no life for Patrick; neither is there freedom from the fear his family, his parents, siblings and two young children (ages 2 and 3 months) must now live. 
Kooyers further reflected, “Cries for accountability have gone unheard for years. Even as we cry out for justice, even as we push for reform within police and criminal justice systems here in Grand Rapids. Those of us like me who hold privileged identities especially have work to do – I have to come alongside of our neighbors of color to demand and pursue systemic change. 
“Every day I have the opportunity, the choice, the privilege to be a Pharaoh who refuses to hear the cries of the people and refuses to set them free,” he continued. “Every day I have the opportunity, the choice, the privilege to be a Pilate who questions ‘what is truth’ when it is lying on the ground in the person in front of him. OR I can actively work alongside of those who are continually subject to violence that together we might move towards liberation.”
Less than two years ago our nation and the world struggled to deal with the horrific killing of George Floyd by the knee of a policeman in Minneapolis. In an Interfaith Insight I asked if in the midst of racism and protest one could find hope. Jim Wallis, longtime advocate of racial justice and founder of the evangelical journal Sojourners, found hope. He wrote, “In my lifetime, I have never seen more white people involved in the deep and growing movement to address systemic racism, structural injustice on many fronts, and, specifically, the violent policing and killing of black people.”
Then Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms called for a “monumental shift” in order to “signal to our country that it is time to heal.” She added, “I am so inspired when I see protesters across this country and see police kneeling with protesters across the country because they are saying to each other, 'I hear you, I feel you, and I want something better for our country too.'"
These questions have now come home to Grand Rapids. Can we address and bring healing to the structural racism in our own community?  Can we find hope in the midst of tragedy? Can we be responsible? 
We cannot hide from the truth taught by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”  We may not be guilty of the death of Patrick Lyoya or of George Floyd’s murder, but we are all responsible for systems that perpetuate racism, tolerate abuse of authority, and for our failure to act on our religious and ethical imperatives to love justice and mercy for all.  
These are troubling times in our nation, our world, and our community. The war crimes in Ukraine, our divided nation, and the work to do here in Grand Rapids, are challenges ahead. In the middle of religious celebrations, we dare not forget the task ahead, as we take responsibility for working together to correct what we know is wrong.
Democracy and Religion

April 21, 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

The Hauenstein Center and Kaufman Interfaith Institute welcome a panel of experts to discuss the nation’s shifting religious landscape. Neil Carlson at the Center for Social Research at Calvin University will provide the program’s keynote remarks and moderate the evening discussion. Panelists include Petra Alsoofy at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding; Andrea Riley-Mukavetz at Grand Valley State University; Kevin McIntosh at the One America Movement; and Matt Jantzen at Hope College.
2022 Youth Interfaith Service Day Camps 

Intro to Interfaith & Cross-Cultural Understanding: June 13-17
Justice & Equity Immersion: June 20-24
Our Interfaith Service Day Camps provide an introduction to the world of interfaith leadership through visiting sacred sites and building community through service.  Students will build friendships while working with a variety of service organizations doing incredible work in our community. It is an excellent opportunity to engage with peers and neighbors of a variety of cultures, traditions, and world views. 
Click here for more information and registration.

For an archive of previous articles
click here.
For more resources on interfaith dialogue and understanding, see this week's Ethics and Religion Talk column hosted on The Rapidian.