Challenge Religious-Based Violence With Education, Unity and True Faith

By Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-NJ) and Senator Tom Kean, Jr (R-NJ)
Co-Chairs, Faith Leaders Against Violence

Whose religion is next to be attacked?

The weapons in the recent attacks on Jews, Muslims and Christians have been guns and explosives, but the most dangerous weapons are the one that allows this violence to grow -- ignorance and silence.

Jews, Muslims and Christians and other religions, are becoming routine targets based on ill-conceived notions of hate and revenge that do not exist in any religious foundation. In the past few weeks we have seen senseless attacks and killings in Paris, Denmark and perhaps, closer to home in North Carolina, all by individuals who have a warped sense of their own faith, or their lack of faith and of the religious beliefs of others.

We must as a community dig deeper into our faiths and put the peace upon which they are rooted on display and not allow divisiveness to fester, while those who are using religion to gain power and control spew their hate and terror. We need more examples as the one set in Oslo this past weekend when more than 1,000 Muslims gathered together to form a human shield around the city's synagogue to symbolically protect the Jewish community and condemn an attack on a synagogue in nearby Denmark.

Muslims and Jews stood shoulder-to-shoulder and chanted, "No to anti-Semitism, no to Islamophobia." It was inspirational and needs to be duplicated worldwide. In a similar spirit, we recently united with leaders across all religions in New Jersey to establish Faith Leaders Against Violence to deliver a vital message: religion must never be used as an excuse for violence.

Our coalition signifies the benevolent power of religion, spreading peace and good will. It shows that various faiths can unite to celebrate the common bonds that unites diverse families, communities, states and nations. We are solidified across political party lines, geographic borders and religious beliefs to set a tone of peace and to speak out against persecution, hatred and violence by anyone or any terrorist group claiming to act in the name of God.

The powerful force of human desire for revenge, control and power needs to be met by a greater force -- religious leaders from all denominations uniting to speak out on behalf of an individual's right to practice his or her religion without fear or intimidation.

Faith Leaders Against Violence is taking action to focus on acceptance of each other's faith and will convey a message that an attack on one faith is an attack on every faith. The time to educate and advocate is not just in the wake of violence. It's at every opportunity in churches, in synagogues, in mosques, in homes and in the media.

Most importantly, we must expand the spirit and unity put on display in Oslo -- We must stand shoulder-to-shoulder and show the world that we are all connected.

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