December 17, 2017

Barbara Hamilton-Holway

Barbara Hamilton-Holway

September 28, 2006 at the Silver Dragon, Chinatown, Downtown Oakland.

Inspirational Words by Barbara Hamilton-Holway
Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley

I am honored, humbled, and glad to be here
among all of you who are doing such amazing, inspiring work.

Congratulations and thank you, Housing Rights, Inc.,
on your good work for our community!

The congregation I serve, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley,
and all of us here tonight support your work,
and we share your mission and your belief
that everyone has a right to decent, affordable housing.

The world is crying out for understanding among religions and cultures.

What we are doing tonight isn’t in isolation;
it is part of the bigger picture of our world.

When I was growing up, talking of religious diversity
meant among the various Christian denominations,
or between Catholics and Protestants, or Christians and Jews.

Look what all we have to put our arms around now.

So much is going on in the world that affects local housing rights,
that affects interfaith understanding
and our shared work for justice and compassion.

What happens in the world affects us.

We all know the Pope’s reference to a 14th century  Byzantine emperor’s words
“Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new,
and there you will find things only evil and inhuman,
such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.'”
The Pope used the terms “jihad” and “holy war.”

He didn’t cite the long stretches of time in history
when Christians have used violence.

He has since apologized and invited dialogue.

Some Islamic leaders were offended
the Pope was perpetuating misconceptions of Islam.
The Prophet Mohammed had restricted the use of force in religion.

The Pope’s speech comes at a time when the world has seen
the hooded figure tortured at Abu Ghraib,
heard stories of the desecration of the Holy Quran.

Since the speech, a group of Muslims burned the Pope in effigy;
a nun was killed; there were rioting Christians, rioting Muslims.

There is no one single Islamic response,
just as there is no one Christian response.

You may have heard spiky-haired, young Muslim feminist
Irshad Manji, author of What’s Wrong With Islam?,
who said she’d read the Pope’s whole speech and no apology is necessary.
She supports the Pope’s invitation to religious dialogue,
but does wish she could convert the Pope to feminism!

…Then at the United Nations,
there was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
criticizing President Bush, who criticized Ahmadinejad
as serving his own interests and not his citizens.–
Venezuelan President Chavez repeatedly called President Bush the devil
and said President Bush had come to the U.N.,
talking like he owned the world.
Representative Nancy Pelosi called Chavez a “thug.”

In the San Francisco Chronicle’s two cents column
where people share their opinions, an Oakland citizen said,
“Every patriotic Venezuelan is ashamed of the parts
[of Chavez’ speech] that were false;
every patriotic American is ashamed of the parts that were true.”

The muck human beings are capable of has been on full display.

Whether religion or government,
Muck and magnificence is the nature of human beings.

All humans, religious and non-religious, fall short of our ideals.

These religious and political leaders in the news are irresponsible
when they ignite stereotypes, kindle fear, and arouse violence in their followers.

 

Television journalist and social commentator, Bill Moyers says,
“The world’s aflame with intolerance, and millions of true believers
are passing buckets of kerosene to throw on it.”
The Middle East, the meeting place of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers,
is called the cradle of civilization,
the birth place of art and architecture, the humanities and sciences.

Now what we see of the Middle East is devastation,
bombed out buildings, soldiers in camouflaged uniforms,
women grieving, a grave yard of humanity.

The misery in the Middle East creates misery on the streets of our towns.

Wars perpetuate misunderstanding and stereotyping among religions and cultures.

Wars perpetuate poverty.

The money that goes to support war is taken from the money to support housing, health care, education, social services and community well-being.

When there’s a military draft, more people oppose war.
You have to ask:  Is this why our country keeps with a volunteer army?

How many young people volunteer for the army
because it is the only way they can see to turn their lives around,
to get a job, training, and education?

If the ranks of the army are filled by poor people,
does the country have an investment in keeping people in poverty?

And what happens when those young people
return from war injured in body and spirit?
Who cares for them?

The world is crying out for understanding.

Interfaith dialogues and interfaith action may not get as much attention
as faiths in opposition with one another, but they are happening
and here we are.

Our linking together here—people of many faiths,
and people who are not a part of any religion,
people whose compassion leads them to action
—is where we find hope, where we begin.

The fact that we are here together is huge, vital.

Joining in interfaith and larger community efforts
to house and protect housing rights for all people is counter cultural–
counter to all this news grabbing, name calling, heart breaking,
community-shattering, life-draining craziness.

Inequity in our country and our world creates war, terrorism, and violence,
fills our prisons, our morgues and our streets.

Many of us have benefited by privileges, opportunities, and just plain luck
while many people in the world have had their opportunities and needs thwarted.
Those who find themselves with so much have the responsibility, the obligation,
and the joy to share.

All of us human beings are vulnerable.

How many of us are a pay check away from economic disaster?

How many of us know personally or have loved ones who know
what it is like to have your life affected by addiction, depression and mental illness?

All human beings have the same needs to love and be loved,
to be respected and to offer respect, to receive and to contribute.

All of us have fears and longings.  We are all in this together.
No one should be made to feel lesser, to feel shamed.

Everyone has the right to a bed, a hot shower, a place to belong,
a table around which to share talk and meals with loved ones,
to feel safe and trusting.

We know we fall short of all we might do.

Still, here together we are learning to stretch our hearts
and hands and pocketbooks in the service of love and justice.

The world is longing for us to come together like this in respect, in compassion,
in community-repairing, life-giving, justice-restoring, peace-making,
hope-bestowing generosity of spirit.

Here we are together, knowing each person has inherent worth and dignity,
knowing each person deserves decent, affordable housing.

Here we are together, knowing our shared worth and dignity
is in building the beloved human community.

 

With gratitude for the gift of life and for the earth our home,
may we join in pouring our energy and our strength
against oppression of all shapes.

May we keep faith with humanity
and with the Source of Amazing Grace, with the Source of Life.

Some day, some day, dear friends,
on this green earth, under the blue sky,
everyone at the table,  everyone with a home,
some day, some day,
dignity, respect,
receiving and contributing,
loving and be loving,
some day, some day,
Rome, Iraq,  Iran,
Israel, Palestine,
California, New Orleans….
East, West,
All    One
courage,
spirit,
power,
justice
some day, some day,
Shalom. Salaam.  Pax.  Pace.
Peace, Peace, Peace.
Yes, oh, yes.   Amen.