Advocacy

IFCGM Statement on COVID-19
March, 2020

The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee notes with concern the spread of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) throughout the world and our nation. Our prayers and meditation from our various faith traditions are holding up all those who suffer physically, psychologically, socially and economically from the effects of the virus.

According to current science, the physical dangers of this pandemic are grave and should be taken seriously. We call upon the leaders of our faith communities to pay attention to the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and all other federal and state agencies as they relate to issues around sanitation of worship spaces and methods of gathering for worship.

We call upon our leaders in all areas of society, particularly our representatives in state and federal government, to work quickly in a cooperative manner to bring the necessary resources to bear in containing and mitigating this Pandemic, as well as addressing the socio/economic cost it bears.

We call upon all people of faith to continue to pray and work to alleviate the suffering of those affected, to show compassion for them, and to do all we can to prevent further contagion. This is a time of both sober caution and confident courage.

Most important of all is that we take care of ourselves and each other, especially the most vulnerable in our midst. This cannot be a time to fan the flames of suspicion, greed or hate.  The measure of our society will be found in the way we respond to this challenge.

We are one in our humanity, and we face this together.

(Issued by Pardeep Singh Kaleka, Interfaith Executive Director; and the Rev. David Simmons, Intrerfaith Cabinet Chair)

 

Resources:

The Center for Disease Control COVID-19 Site 

Wisconsin Department of Health Services COVID-19 Page 

Wisconsin Council of Churches Faith-Based Response to Coronavirus: 

 

Interfaith Conference Statement
Support for a Lead-Free Milwaukee


October 7, 2019 Milwaukee City Budget Hearing

.       Exposure to lead poses a significant health threat to all Milwaukee residents but disproportionately impacts women of childbearing age and children younger than six.  Permanent health effects for children include lower IQ, hyperactivity, slowed growth, learning delays and disabilities, as well as kidney damage and seizures in extreme cases.  In 2018, children in Milwaukee tested three times higher for elevated blood lead levels than children in the State of Wisconsin as a whole, and children specifically in Milwaukee’s Amani neighborhood tested for elevated blood lead levels at a rate five times higher than the rate in Flint, Michigan during their city’s contaminated water crisis in 2014 (MK Nutrition & Lead Task Force, 2019).

            The City of Milwaukee’s aging infrastructure contains more than 75,000 lead service lines (Jannene, 2019), yet only 2,175 lead service lines have been replaced in the past three years (Shelbourne, 2019; Milwaukee Water Works).  Recognizing that citywide service line replace is a slow process but that children’s lives are presently being affected by lead exposure, the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, therefore, strongly urges the Common Council to support the “Birthing Moms Pilot Project” by passing an amendment to the city’s 2020 budget in the amount of $240,000.  This project, administered by the Milwaukee Health Department, will provide NSF/ANSI Standard 53 certified lead filtering pitchers, two replacement cartridges, and lead education kits to all birthing moms from zip codes where the lead poisoning density in Milwaukee is the most severe, i.e. 53204, 53206, 53208, and 53210, prior to being discharged from the hospital. 

References

Milwaukee Water Works. “Lead and Water.” https://city.milwaukee.gov/WaterQuality/LeadandWater#.XZJCIyV7lsP. Retrieved September 30, 2019.

MKE Nutrition & Lead Task Force (2019). “2018 Well Fed Means Less Lead Campaign Summary” 

Jannene, J. (2019, July 17). https://urbanmilwaukee.com/2019/07/17/city-hall-1893-lead-service-lines-replaced. Retrieved September 30, 2019.

 

Detention Statement

July 25, 2019

We see our nation at the crossroads of a spiritual crisis. The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee expresses its deep concern about the inhumane conditions that our government has created and continues to maintain in the facilities detaining persons seeking asylum in our country. We urge immediate action by our government and leaders to address this developing humanitarian tragedy.

Reputable and multiple sources report that many of these asylum seekers have been denied adequate medical care and basic necessities. In addition, they are subjected to harsh living conditions in these facilities, including sleeping on concrete floors, 24/7 lighting of sleeping areas, and inadequate facilities for hygiene. We note with alarm that in the past few months multiple children and adults have died in our government’s custody. Our country’s sad history of mass incarceration and family separations, which has included but is not limited to people of African American, First Nations, and Japanese American ancestry, demonstrates the grave long-term consequences and multi-generational trauma of detention and/or family separation.[1]

Our respective faith traditions call us to treat the stranger with hospitality, dignity, and respect. For example, in Exodus 22:21 of the Hebrew Scriptures, it is commanded that “You shall not wrong or oppress a stranger, for you were once strangers in the land of Egypt.” As a nation built by immigrants, we are called to an attitude of compassion towards those who in many ways resemble our own ancestors.

In a soaring statement that sums up our aspirations even as we still struggle towards its fulfillment, the foundational document of our country states that humans are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”[2] The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 14(1), provides, “Everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” The rights of asylum-seekers to humanitarian treatment is not only implicit in our national foundations but explicit in our international treaty obligations.

The spiritual and ethical future of our nation is being determined by how we react in this humanitarian and spiritual crisis. If we fail to act and build compassionate policy and infrastructure surrounding asylum-seekers, we will not only cause irreparable harm to those in detention today - we will morally wound our nation and the generations to follow.

The Interfaith Conference urges its members to take action by supporting organizations that serve asylum seekers, by speaking out within our social networks, and by advocating for our government officials to take immediate, emergency action consistent with our various faith traditions and our civil society’s values.

We urge all people of faith to seek out and support the agencies and ministries of their faith traditions that are working in advocacy and relief in regards to our Nation’s immigration system.

[1] For data on the health effects on children, see Impact of punitive immigration policies, parent-child separation and child detention on the mental health and development of children by Laura CN Wood. For discussion of the long-term effects of slavery, Reconstruction and Jim Crow on the African American community, see Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. For data on the health effects of the Japanese-American Internment during the Second World War, see The Experience of Injustice: Health Consequences of the Japanese American Internment by Gwendolyn M. Jensen.

[2] Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson.


Stand Against Hate in Waukesha County

May 13, 2019

The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee notes with concern the use of the Waukesha County Exposition Center this past weekend by a group purporting to be a “Security Conference,” but with a roster of speakers who are known to have repeatedly engaged in virulent hate speech against Muslims as a group.

The IFCGM mourned with the Sikh community after the shooting in Oak Creek in 2012. In the last two years, we have prayed with the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities after the violent events in Pittsburgh, California, Louisiana, Sri Lanka, and New Zealand. We have stood in solidarity with our local communities of faith as America faces renewed waves of white supremacy, Islamophobia and antisemitism. We condemn all forms of speech that judge people on the basis of their race, religion, gender, or any other generalizing factor that ignores the dignity of the individual human being that underlies the solidarity of the human community.

We are concerned that individuals indulging in hate speech have come to consider Waukesha County a friendly venue. While we appreciate the issues that flow from public facilities and free speech, we note that there are limits to which groups are given the implicit support of facility use. We would encourage the Waukesha County government to review its facility use policies to determine whether such use accords with the values of Waukesha County and its voters. If Waukesha County is “Leading the Way,” as its vision statement and logo proclaim, it must determine the direction that leadership is going in a time when minority groups are under increasing threat of persecution and violence.

We furthermore call upon the leadership of Waukesha County to issue statements explicitly affirming the welcome place of American Muslims and people of all minority races, religions, and ethnicities as residents of Waukesha County. Considering the virulence of the hate speech used in the past by the organizers and presenters who contracted to speak inside a county facility this past weekend, this intentional acknowledgment by our elected leaders of the contributions of American Muslims to the culture, civic life, and economy of Waukesha County is warranted.

The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee is a 49-year-old nonprofit organization through which the regional leaders and adherents of 18 faiths and denominations: dialogue to build relationships; counter hate and fear with programming that fosters understanding, tolerance, and friendship; and work together on social issues to help create a better society for everyone.


Stand Against Hatred and Violence

March 15, 2019

The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee strongly condemns the horrific attack on two mosques in New Zealand.

Although this atrocity has not taken place in our geographic area, we are aware of the effect such acts of terror can have on our local community. The rising tide of hatred across the globe affects us all.

Last night’s attack is another manifestation of the hatred and violence that has become all too common around the world, including Islamophobia in this instance but also hatred towards the stranger in general. In these challenging times, let us strive to advocate for understanding and justice and the basic precepts of mercy and compassion that underlie all of our faiths.

The Interfaith Conference reaffirms our common commitment to the inherent dignity of every human being – seen in many faiths as being made by a loving Creator -- and recommits itself to peacemaking and justice among our constituent bodies and beyond.

The Interfaith Conference is a 49-year-old nonprofit organization through which the regional leaders and adherents of 18 member faiths and denominations:

  • Dialogue to build personal relationships • Conduct public programming to counter hate and fear while fostering interfaith, intercultural and interracial understanding, tolerance and friendship
  • Work together on hunger, unemployment, environmental challenges and other social issues to create a better society for everyone

Nonmember faiths and denominations also help plan and participate.

Issued by the Interfaith Conference Executive Committee


Interfaith Conference Stands with Jewish Communities,
Condemns Anti-Semitic Violence at Pittsburgh Synagogue

October 27, 2018

The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee strongly condemns the anti-Semitic violence carried out against worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Although this atrocity has not taken place in our geographic area, we are aware of the effect such acts of terror can have on our local community.

Our prayers, our support, and our commitment to continue to act in solidarity are with those in Pittsburgh and our local Jewish community as they mourn and continue to struggle with the immoral scourge of anti-Semitism. The Interfaith Conference reaffirms our common commitment to the inherent dignity of every human being as made by a loving Creator and recommits itself to peacemaking and justice among our constituent bodies and beyond.

The Interfaith Conference is a 48-year-old nonprofit organization through which the regional leaders and adherents of 18 member faiths and denominations:

  • Dialogue to build personal relationships
  • Conduct public programming to counter hate and fear while fostering interfaith, intercultural and interracial understanding, tolerance and friendship
  • Work together on hunger, unemployment, environmental challenges and other social issues to create a better society for everyone

Nonmember faiths and denominations also help plan and participate


A Season of Action Against Hate

Oct. 12, 2017

The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee calls on all people of every faith and philosophy in Southeastern Wisconsin to stand against hate and uphold the dignity of all people during a Season of Action Against Hate, beginning with the collective Anti-Hate Weekend, Oct. 13-15, and continuing to Thanksgiving, when Americans of diverse races, genders, and creeds come together in appreciation of our great nation.

During this season against hate, we ask faith leaders and others to teach, preach, and dialogue about the rise of hate and how to build a community of compassion. This is occurring in conjunction with the Anti-Hate Weekend, a community-wide mobilization to reject hate and build a compassionate community.

Faith communities – in houses of worship and on the streets – are powerful forces for the common good. The Interfaith Conference charges faith leaders to galvanize the community with the power of their particular faith tradition to reject hate in our community.

Faith leaders are invited to join the Facebook group, Teaching and Preaching Against Hate SE Wisconsin, https://www.facebook.com/groups/1004074376400915/ , where they can share sermons, thoughts, programs, and ideas.

The Interfaith Conference also is urging leaders and members of all faiths to create and submit short videos of one or two minutes during the Season Against Hate and to send them to office@interfaithconference.org. Videos should respond to one of the following prompts:

  • What does your faith tradition teach about hate and intolerance, about loving the stranger?
  • How does your faith tradition inform how you behave toward people of other faiths?
  • Share an insight about compassion that you want others to know.

Authorized by Interfaith Cabinet. Approved by Interfaith Executive Committee


Interfaith Conference statement on hate in Charlottesville

August 14, 2017

The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee is urging people of all faiths throughout southeastern Wisconsin and beyond to speak out and stand guard against the white supremacist hatred that violently burst from the underbelly of our American culture in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend.

These hate groups are trying the soul of our society, and these are not the times for people of faith to respond with pious platitudes and lukewarm expressions of concern.

The world is all too familiar with the violent catastrophes that await a nation when racial and religious hatred are not vigorously opposed. Jews are still being vilified by contemporary hate groups. African Americans feel the continuing lash of racism, both subtle and brutal. The Sikh community here has felt the bitter sting of a white supremacist’s gunfire. We need no more reminders that none of us is immune from evil.

Religious leaders should preach out, speak out, and uphold the dignity of every person. People of good will should live up to the highest ideals of their faiths and philosophies and not merely mouth them behind closed doors.

There remains more light than darkness. Many local faiths, denominations, organizations and institutions work long hours to counter injustice, fear, hate, and bigotry. The Interfaith Conference is one of them. Find one. Add your voice. Add your energy. Even in the incredible busyness of our digitally connected lives, do what you can, whenever you can, wherever you can. And do it today. At some point, waiting for one more tomorrow could be too late.

Approved by Interfaith Conference Executive Commitee


Interfaith Statement on Beating of Muslim Woman

April 13, 2017

The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee strongly condemns the reported attack this week on a Muslim woman who was walking home from the Islamic Society of Milwaukee’s mosque at S. 13th St. and W. Layton Ave. after early morning prayers. This assault should be vigorously investigated as a hate crime.

Moreover, this is a moment when people throughout our entire metropolitan area should speak out publicly and privately to make it clear that they stand opposed to all words and deeds of hate and violence against any faith. Disrespectful comments pave the way for hate. Small acts of intolerance may lead to more serious ones and ultimately to violence.

While one individual’s heinous act does not define a society, the failure to condemn and oppose bigotry and hate based upon religious differences can. The Conference urges our community to stand for the right of every human being to worship as he or she sees fit without fear of discrimination, hate or violence.

For 47 years, the Interfaith Conference – whose member faiths and denominations now reach across southern and southeastern Wisconsin – has upheld the sacred dignity of every person while opposing hate in all of its forms. We have increasingly presented programs to counter misinformation while providing opportunities for the most effective antidote to hate and intolerance – personal interaction and sharing across religious, racial and cultural lines.

Issued by the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee Executive Committee on behalf
of the Interfaith Cabinet (our board of directors).


Interfaith Statement on Hate

Feb. 22, 2017

Diverse leaders of good will and strong faith must stand side by side to oppose a shadowy rise of what must be termed evil. Hate and intolerance are rearing up like emboldened specters, threatening both our core, shared values and the well-being of a nation whose freedoms and opportunities have been a beacon that must not be dimmed.

The leaders of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee strongly condemn the recent series of bomb threats and other anti-Semitic acts that have besieged Jewish community centers and schools here and across the country.

With equal vigor, we abhor similar hate acts directed against Muslims and others who are seen as “different.” The gunshots from a hate-driven assailant who slayed six Sikhs at a temple in Oak Creek nearly five years ago still echo in our collective consciousness. Images from a mass shooting of African Americans two years ago at a church in Charleston, S.C., remain vivid.

These happenings are warnings of what already exists. And they are compelling calls to step up, stand up, and live up to the teachings of our faiths and to the ideals that are essential to a free and stable democratic society.

For 47 years, the Interfaith Conference – whose member faiths and denominations now reach across southern and southeastern Wisconsin – has upheld the sacred dignity of every person. We call upon people of all faiths and philosophies to stand even taller with us now.

Issued by the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee Executive Committee on behalf
of the Interfaith Cabinet (our board of directors).


Interfaith Statement on Refugees

Jan. 30, 2017

The Executive Committee of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee issued the following statement on behalf of our Cabinet (board of directors):

For almost 50 years, the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee has stood together, committed to upholding the dignity of every person and the solidarity of the human community. We believe the recent executive order that would stop the entry of refugees from predominantly Muslim countries is not only detrimental to national security but also contrary to our collective commitment to unity, as well as to our individual faith understandings of what it means to offer hospitality and to welcome the stranger.

For over 200 years, our nation has stood as a beacon of hope for the oppressed of the world. It has been the place that countless generations have looked upon as a land of real opportunity, a place where they can live free and provide for their families without hindrance. Certainly there have been times in our history when we have not afforded these opportunities to everyone. This should not be one of those times.