Bishop Cho joins area faith leaders
to support Muslim community

By Linda S. Rhodes

Dec. 18, 2015 - Bishop Young Jin Cho joined nearly 100 other Richmond area faith leaders on Thursday, Dec. 17, to express solidarity with the Muslim community and condemn recent public expressions of religious discrimination.

Nearly 100 Richmond area faith leaders gathered to express solidarity with
the Muslim community and condemn recent public expressions of religious

The gathering, which included Protestant Christians, Catholics, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims, was held at the Islamic Center of Virginia in Bon Air. The event was a joint effort of several organizations, including the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, Virginia Council of Churches and Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.

“We are gathering to bring people together to show solidarity against discrimination, especially against Muslims,” said the Rev. Charles Swadley, United Methodist pastor currently serving as interim director of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.

Swadley said it is important for religious leaders in the United States to “reaffirm our heritage of freedom of religion.” Calling such freedom the “breath of life” for religious groups, Swadley said “when there is oppression against any one of our faith groups, it is of concern to all of us.”

Bishop Young Jin Cho greets Imam Ammar Amonette during
an interfaith event supporting the Richmond area Muslim

“I am so absolutely astounded by the level of support which has been expressed to us from leaders and common people from congregations and communities all around us,” said Imam Ammar Amonette of the Islamic Center of Virginia. “On behalf of the Islamic Center of Virginia and the Muslim community, I would love to express to everyone here the depth of our appreciation. We are so grateful that we have strong community partners.”

He particularly thanked the Jewish community that, he said, has been standing with the Muslim community with “no politics involved.”

“We all understand that hatred directed toward any individual or group of people is a danger to all of us,” Amonette said, “whether it’s Islamophobia or anti-Semitism or any kind of hatred and intolerance and discrimination that isolates people and prevents us from working together peacefully and communicating together peacefully.”

Other speakers, selected to represent the assembled faith leaders, reaffirmed the need to support all faith groups and condemn discrimination and bigotry.

Bishop Young Jin Cho (right), talks with the Rev. David
Chapman (left), interim executive minister of the Baptist General
Convention of Virginia, and the Rev. Charles Swadley (center),
interim director of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy,
at an interfaith event to oppose religious discrimination.

“I stand in support and solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters in the worship, work and witness of their faith communities,” said Dr. Brian Blount, president of Union Presbyterian Seminary. “When one of our faith communities is diminished, we are all diminished.

“Whether that diminishment be in the form of bitter words, threatening politics or hostile actions,” Blount said, “we are called to stand up and stand fast in our witness to the vision of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called God’s beloved community.”

Bishop Francis DiLorenzo of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond said he is telling members of Catholic communities throughout the diocese to “get to know your neighbors” and read up on their background, country, culture, why they’ve come to the U.S. and what they are doing on behalf of this country. He also recommended personally getting acquainted with somebody who is Muslim or who is an Arab-American.

And he said he recommends following what Jesus said and did by showing “Christian love,” a love that is characterized by being “grace-inspired, universal in scope (offered to every man, woman and child), forgiving and self-sacrificial.”

Rabbi Ben Romer, of Bonay Kodesh, reminded his audience that the first motto imprinted on U.S. coins was “E Pluribus Unum,” Latin for "out of many, one."

“What makes America strong is knowing that we are one by the diversity of who we all are,” Romer said.

(Videos of each speaker can be seen at

Led by Jonathan Zur (at microphone), president of the Virginia Center for
Inclusive Communities, Richmond area faith leaders join in reciting a “Pledge
to Stand Together."

Following the speakers, participants joined in reciting a “Pledge to Stand Together,” promising that “with our Muslim friends, neighbors and colleagues who have recently faced an increase in bigoted words and actions … we stand together.”

Jonathan Zur, president of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, said the group intends to purchase a full-page advertisement in the Richmond Times-Dispatch to share a public statement and the names of religious and organizational leaders or organizations that signed it. To review the statement and add your name, go to Deadline to sign the statement is 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 21, in order to give organizers time to design and submit the ad.

A “Standing Together” public event will be held in the afternoon Sunday, Jan. 10, at Congregation Beth Ahabah.

Click here to read the Richmond Times-Dispatch article about the event.

Click here to view online report from WRIC-TV ABC-8.

Click here to read coverage from WWBT NBC-12.

Linda S. Rhodes is Virginia Conference director of Communications


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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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