On Sunday, February, I had the privilege to speak for a few minutes at the KC Interfaith Vigil for Immigrants and Refugees. As the Chair of the Greater Kansas Interfaith Council, and on their behalf, I offered these words. It was an extraordinary afternoon, thousands of faces and hearts. I laughed, was moved to tears, and was so uplifted by everyone’s presence. My peace I give you.
I am Rev. Kelly Isola, Chair of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council. It is my deep honor and privilege to stand with you today.
At the beginning of our Council meetings together we affirm: “We gather to accomplish this work of service, honor the sacred in each of us, and deepen our relations…” As an organization committed to this, we find ourselves deeply disheartened by what we see before us. Because what we are seeing is a demonstration of the OPPOSITE of values we hold dearly – compassion, inclusion, diversity and respect.
The refugee or immigrant story – at its heart – is not about statistics, it is about people, it is about YOU and I. In fact, the root of the word IMMIGRANT means “to go into, move in.” And the root of the word REFUGEE means “to take shelter, to protect.”
At the core of these words, it is clear this is about our shared humanity, about our connection – how we act and be with each other.
Kansas City Mayor Sly James has said, “This is not about who we oppose or what we fear. This is about who we are and who we want to be.” And I agree.
Ask yourself, “What does my faith have to say about who I am and who I want to be?” And I invite you to listen to that voice of faith… some call it God, Great Spirit, Atman, Allah, the Divine, Higher Self, the Universe, some call it goodness… whatever name you have for the guiding principles that tell you who you are and who you want to be.
Often, during times like these of great suffering, upheaval and uncertainty, the question arises “Where is God?” But the question I would put before you today is not “Where is God,” rather I would ask “Where is humanity? Where are you?”
Mahatma Gandhi said, “If you go to the heart of your own religion, you go the heart of every religion.” At the heart of most every faith or life philosophy there is a shared fundamental belief – life is sacred- and it is through compassionate service – in whatever that looks like for you: writing letters, pastoral care, contemplative prayer, giving of your time or talent, to name a few – that we demonstrate this belief.
As humans, we have hearts that feel, which means – our hearts will break. But that breaking also has to be a breaking open, and that breaking open has to lead us to action – to let the light that is IN each one of us – OUT. So that light might shine as peace, compassion, inclusion, joy, service, generosity, gratefulness… AS LIFE ITSELF.
We, the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council, want you to know that we are in solidarity with you, whether you are here with us in this city or whether you are away from us… know we are with you in spirit.
Our vision statement says we are BUILDING THE MOST WELCOMING COMMUNITY FOR ALL. At this extraordinary time in our nation’s history, we are called to affirm our profound commitment to developing this vision, to fostering life-affirming dialogue and interaction.
In the face of threats to refugees and immigrants, and so many other groups and individuals… we affirm our belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. We are unwavering in our resolve to model our spiritual and religious values.
We remain steadfast in expanding the awareness of the spiritual values of ANY faith tradition or life philosophy because it is these values that can help us through any challenge, TOGETHER. It is these values that show us who we are and who we want to be – TOGETHER.
Mother Teresa said that if we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. Look around you… you belong to each other… my life matters because of you. One of the deepest human longings – is the longing to belong, to be a part of things, to be invited in, to be safe and protected.
So if we have no peace, remember this: not only do we need to remember we belong to each other, but it is also our invitation to Be. The. Longing.
Where you long for a friend to support you, be the friend who calls another to find out if they are well.
When you long to know peace, be the non-anxious presence for someone who is suffering.
Where you long for community and connection, be the heartbeat of whatever group you are with.
When you long to feel less afraid, be the hand that reaches out with generosity.
Where you long to know safety, be the demonstration of commitment and love by moving outside your own comfort zone.
When you long to know your presence here matters, be the gift of welcoming.
We joyously celebrate the gifts of religious pluralism in our city because it is a celebration of the interconnectedness of all life. Whatever our individual journeys, we simply can’t imagine being separate. We can’t imagine our lives without each other.
As people of conscience, we declare our commitment to translate our values into action as we stand on the side of love with the most vulnerable among us.
We welcome and invite all of you to join in this commitment for justice. As the ancient philosopher Plato said, “We’re all born whole but we need each other to be complete.”
Finally, If you are an immigrant or refugee, and no one has told you, let me be the first: You are welcome… right here and right now. And so it is. Thank you.