Archive for May, 2010

Faith Leaders to Obama: Act Now for Immigration Reform

Members of the NY State Interfaith Network for Immigration Reform helped craft this letter to President Obama, asking him to press forward on immigration reform.

Faith leaders are asked to sign on- we are seeking 500 signatures by Monday, June 7.  Clergy and lay leaders are both welcome to add their names in support.  Please email your name, organization, city, and state to

The letter reads as follow:

An Open Letter to President Barack Obama from America’s Faith Community Leaders

Dear President Obama:

In your objections to Arizona’s new immigration law, you rightly called on Congress to act swiftly to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform.  As leaders of our nation’s diverse faith communities, we are united by our commitment to an America that is both safe and just. We echo your call to Senate Republicans and Democrats to negotiate and produce a bipartisan immigration reform bill this year.

To move the process forward, we ask that you make immigration reform a priority in the months ahead, using all the tools available to your office. We also ask that you convene a bipartisan summit on Comprehensive Immigration Reform.  We believe this summit is necessary for lawmakers to discuss common and differing viewpoints on structuring the legislation. It would also fulfill your pledge to all Americans to provide workable solutions that fix our broken immigration system.

America needs Comprehensive Immigration Reform that both protects our interests and abides by our values. As Americans, we are strongly committed to the safety and security of our nation, policies that ensure economic prosperity, and fair labor practices for all workers.  We celebrate our commitments to the rule of law; equal protection under the law; and our rich immigrant heritage. Together these commitments make America what it is today–a global beacon of opportunity and hope.

The passage of Arizona’s new immigration law highlights a failure of our federal government to enact reform.  State-based solutions place an unrealistic burden on police officers and divert substantial resources from their primary responsibility to protect us from crime.  Comprehensive Immigration Reform that provides a path to citizenship would decrease racial profiling, keep families together, and increase tax revenue. A 2009 study by the Cato Institute found that legalization of low-skilled workers would boost the incomes of American workers and households by $180 billion over ten years.

Many of us minister daily to individuals and communities adversely impacted by our broken system.  We are convinced that America cannot afford to delay Comprehensive Immigration Reform; that our safety, our economy, and our most cherished ideals are at stake. The teachings of our nation’s diverse religious traditions require action now!

The Hebrew Bible tells us: ” And if a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.  The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord, your God.   (Leviticus 19:33-34).”

In the New Testament, Jesus calls us to welcome the immigrant, saying “for what you do to the least of these who are members of my family, you do unto me (Matthew 25:40).”

The Qur’an requires us to “serve God, and be good to …neighbors who are familiar and near… the companion by your side and the traveler that you meet… (4: 36).”

The Hindu scripture Taitiriya Upanishad reminds us, “The guest is a representative of God (1.11.2).”

Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last human Sikh Guru, guided us to “recognize the human race as one.”

Our nation is blessed by a broad diversity of religious traditions.  We are Baha’is, Buddhists, and Christians, Hindus, Jains, Jews, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs and more.  We worship in different ways, but we are united in our affirmation of the Golden Rule: Treat others in the way that you yourself want to be treated.

Our current system is a transgression of these shared teachings and of American values.  Comprehensive Immigration Reform is a moral imperative for our nation.  Mr. President, we urge you to heed our call to conscience. The well-being of America and the lives of immigrants, our families and our children hang in the balance.


Name, Affiliation


The Online Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue

The Journal of Inter-Religous Dialogue is an online publication and forum to discuss issues impacting religious communities globally.  The Journal also regularly posts InterViews with advocates, thinkers and visionaries in interfaith dialogue and creates an opportunity for the next generation of seminarians, graduate students, and civic leaders to interact with these views.  Recently, the Journal interviewed Dr. Sarah Sayeed, Program & Communication Associate at the Interfaith Center of New York about her work at the Interfaith Center and her views on challenges facing Muslim women.  The video is available at the InterViews website or on YouTube:

Earth Day with the Interfaith Center

Allysa De Wolf, Intern at Interfaith Center of New York

On Thursday, April 22, The Interfaith Center joined with Faith Leaders for Environmental Justice in the inauguration of the new Healthy Living Harlem Green Map. A group of us spent the next few hours on a walking tour through a couple of the highlights on the map. Our journey began at the Interfaith Center where we traversed up Riverside Drive next to Riverside Park. The day was perfect with clear blue skies and the warm sun lighting our way up to Riverbank Park on 145th St.

I have often driven by Riverbank Park and remarked at how interesting it was to see a park atop a concrete building with trees, basketball courts, and other features but never knew what exactly this park was sitting on. To those who are also ignorant of its mysterious foundation, Rivebank Park sits on top of a sanitation plant. As we explored the amenities (the community garden, Hudson River view, track, ice rink, etc) we couldn’t ignore the tall cyndrical towers “hidden” among the recreational items. These towers remind park goers and residents’ noses that in fact the children and families playing and living within close proximity are atop and near a sanitation plant. In fact this plant is one of the biggest in the city. The representatives from West Harlem Environmental Action (WeACT) explained to us to dichotomy of this “green” space. On one hand it is taking something that is altogether harmful for our lungs and environment and “greening” it but on the other residents are constantly breathing in the chemicals being released into the air. Below the Riverbank Park and to the North we visited a vegetable garden.

The vegetable garden was busy with volunteers turning the soil and preparing the earth to plant the next harvest. This space, open to the public and used by the community is a great example of residents taking unused space and making it not only beautiful but resourceful. It backs up to and under the West Side Highway down a little street that once was full of garbage trucks waiting to empty their loads and in a place where drugs and prostitution used to run rampant. Now this garden along with a new waterway park are the highlights.

At the new waterway park that sits between 120th and 140th st the water is beginning to team with life. WeAct talked about how when the park was in its first planning stages a military surveyor tested the water where the park was to break ground and said there were no signs of life. Now there are fish and other sea life making a home under the docks and bridge that juts out into water. In water front parks residents not only have more room to play but a reminder that we live on an Island.  Often this simple fact can be overshadowed by the tall buildings and busy schedules NewYorkers live by. A new dock that has been built as part of the park is waiting to be used as a kayak and boat dock. This could potentially bring in revenue from site seeyers and adventure buffs. This whole area was a great reminder of how going Green ca be profitable to pocket books, health, animal life and the environment. It is a win-win situation for all here. As we made our way down the park we ended our tour at the Bus Depot near 120th St.

This Depot sits across the street from one of the biggest new housing developments and three schools. When one stands underneath the windows of the depot one can hardly breath from the fumes. It is another reminder of the low income areas and minority communities being used as a dumping ground for toxic plants and depots. Children in upper Manhattan and other minority areas are known for having the worst asthma in all of New York City because of bus depots like this one. By the end of the walk, I could feel my lungs itching from standing in Riverbank Park among the sanitation plant and standing here watching the buses going in and out. Now, I have asthma and feeling the effects so easily made me realize even more how bad this problem is. I looked over to the schools sitting directly in front of the air ducts and windows. I imagined the small lungs breathing in the fumes everday as they came out for recess. This tour was a good reminder of the need for more parks, vegetable gardens and green areas in low income and minority areas like Harlem but it was also a sobering reminder of the toxins and pollutants these residents are forced to breath in everday.

*If you would like to check out the map for yourself go to and search for “Healthy Living Harlem Green map.”  Faith Leaders for Environmental Justice is a collaboration of diverse religous leaders working together on food and climate justice.  The Interfaith Center is a founding member of this collaboration.