Since early 2016, when we first gathered as a group of various local religious leaders and formed the Magic Valley Inter-religious Dialogue, we have regularly met together to discuss our beliefs and to better understand one another. Our purpose is to learn about each other, build friendly relationships among each other and our neighbors, and with integrity more fully comprehend our different religions. In doing so, we have developed trust and sincere friendships. This is true even though we each maintain unique doctrines, practices and beliefs, and different understandings about the nature of God — and even about whether we worship the same God.
In a very real sense, though, our differences in theology highlight our unity on the issue of religious freedom for all. We unequivocally and in the strongest terms stand united in opposition to the recent act of disrespect against our Muslim neighbors in Twin Falls. It is distressing and offensive that anyone would consider such a deed, clearly calculated to be pointedly offensive, as a legitimate form of disagreement or protest. There is also a sick irony that the perpetrators defiled a cross, a symbol sacred to Christians, in carrying out such an un-Christian act. We are fully aware that acts of aggression, vandalism, prejudice, disrespect, and violence toward religion and worshippers occur around the country and around the world. We likewise condemn all such acts directed towards any religion or believers. An assault on one religion is ultimately an assault on all religions.
It would not be difficult for any of us to imagine how we might feel if someone in the dark of night deployed a pre-meditated attack — deliberately selected to demonstrate maximum disrespect — against the places or institutions we each consider sacred, be it our places of worship, our homes or families. With this in mind, we in the Dialogue also feel compelled to show compassionate support for our Muslim neighbors for the simplest of reasons. Not because our beliefs are the same, but because we share this community, and they are our neighbors and friends. Though we have different doctrines, we all know we should love our neighbors. When our friends and neighbors are disrespected and mistreated, when things sacred to them are defiled, it is fitting and proper to come to their defense. In the famous words of Martin Niemöller, we are compelled to “speak out!”
At the heart of this issue lies the freedom for each of us to worship as we choose. We unitedly affirm that — despite any of our differences in theology or culture — we stand together united in the defense of Religious Freedom —the freedom for all people to express their religious beliefs openly, free from persecution, discrimination and fear. We encourage all people in our community — of whatever faith or creed, and despite differences in belief or culture — to find ways to come together, united in defense of religious freedom.