Posts Tagged ‘Axis of Friendship’

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The Axis of Friendship

September 14, 2011

Kevin Omi at the Axis of Friendship eventThese words were spoken by First Church member Kevin Omi at an Axis of Friendship event held at the time of the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The event honored relations between people of the United States and Iran and celebrated connections with people of all cultures and nations.

I am a member of First Congregational Church of Berkeley, a progressive Christian congregation serving the East Bay. In church this morning, Dr. Rahim Nobahar, the new Imam of the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California, was our special guest for our 9 am service. Amir Soltani who has visited with us several times, read poetry in our 11 am services.

More about the various ways First Church commemorated the 10th anniversary of 9/11…

Two years ago our congregation in conjunction with churches and Conferences throughout the country brought a resolution called the Axis of Friendship to our denominational meeting in Grand Rapids, MI. I am proud to say that our denomination agreed to:

• stood in solidarity with the people of Iran as they expressed their will toward self-government;

• promote and work for friendship between the people of Iran and the United States of America,

• call for an end to the violence, repression, and bloodshed, against peaceful Iranian demonstrators, media, and others

This July our denomination declared its support for our neighbors in the Muslim community, both in the United States and around the world, who feel the impact of anti-Islamic rhetoric and action.  We agreed to denounce actions against Islam or Muslims based on ignorance or fear; and to learn more about Islam and to build relationships with Muslims and peoples of all faiths.

I am also a Japanese American, the proud son of soldier in the 442nd regimental combat team.  The 442nd was the most highly decorated regiment in the history of the United States armed forces. My father fought in some of the most brutal battles of WW-II while the rest of his family, along with 110,000 other Japanese Americans were stripped of their belongings, property, and dignity.  Some were forced to sleep in horse corrals in Tanforan before they were sent on trains to the most desolate parts of the county. They lived in concentration camps surrounded by barbed wire, in tar paper shacks, during brutally hot summers and freezing winters; because of wartime hysteria and a long history of racism against persons of color.

Japanese Americans have been among the most vocal and passionate supporters of embattled Muslims. When we heard talk of “rounding up Muslims”, we immediately saw the potential parallel with our own history. We have folded thousands of paper cranes, which are a symbol of peace and decorated the windows in an Islamic school in Sacramento. We have rallied public support against hate crimes at mosques, signed on to legal briefs opposing the government’s indefinite detention of Muslims, organized cross-cultural trips to the Manzanar internment camp memorial, and held “Bridging Communities” workshops in Islamic schools and on college campuses.

As a member of the United Church of Christ, I believe that God is still speaking and urges us on to work with people of all faiths for the causes of peace, justice, and love.  As a Japanese American, I stand in solidarity with Muslims and all persons who are the object of suspicion, ignorance and fear.  Thanks be to the God that unites and sustains us.

More about First Congregational Church of Berkeley…

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