Office of Public Affairs

USM to host Maine faith communities for unity rally against hate

Reza Jalali

The USM Office of Multicultural Affairs will host a one-hour "Neighbors Standing Shoulder to Shoulder" community gathering on December 7 to stand together and declare Portland, and Maine, as a hate-free zone.

In response to recent acts of hate reported around the U.S. in the wake of the presidential election, including recent anti-Muslim graffiti at the University of Southern Maine, representatives from more than 20 faith traditions and community groups will gather at the Woodbury Campus Center, 35 Bedford Street, at the University of Southern Maine on Wednesday, December 7, at 12 noon.

The event will take place at the same time as USM's annual Festival of Lights, an interfaith celebration of holidays observed by different faith traditions represented at USM. The Festival of Lights will offer a colorful backdrop to the rally, with a collective mission of unity and religious harmony.

The one-hour event, "Neighbors Standing Shoulder to Shoulder," is hosted by the USM Office of Multicultural Affairs in partnership with the Maine Council of Churches, the Episcopal Diocese of Maine, Abbey of Hope, and the USM Muslim Student Association. The public is invited to stand with those who will share expressions of support to New Mainers, offer personal stories, and say "no" to hatred and violence in Maine and elsewhere.

The event organizer, Reza Jalali, a local Muslim scholar and writer who coordinates the USM Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and is the Muslim adviser at Bowdoin College, said there has never been such a critical need to come together as a community.

"It's time to say 'no' to the name calling, hatred, and acts of violence committed in the name of religions. I believe one way to fight the darkness of our world is to see and treat each other as neighbors, regardless of our differences, in order to build beloved and inclusive communities where all people feel safe and loved."

The Rt. Rev. Stephen Lane, Episcopalian Bishop of Maine said, "We live in an environment of increasing uncertainty and fear for the future. At times like these, it is not uncommon that hearts turn in fear towards those whom we perceive as different. As people of faith, we cannot stand aside when incidents of hatred are committed in our midst. Any act of hate and intolerance is an act against all who stand for the basic tenets of freedom, justice, and peace no matter what our religion, our race, our ethnicity, or our country of origin. We must refuse to be complicit in the commission of such acts by remaining silent."

This community gathering will offer hope while promising a chance to stand together to declare Portland, and Maine, as a hate-free zone. All are welcome.