Content warning: Violence
This past weekend, a shooting at a synagogue in San Diego exposed the disturbing reality of anti-Semitism in the United States. It’s one of the many acts of violence against people of faith over the last year. While these attacks are extreme, many people of various faiths experience hate that threatens their religious freedom on a daily basis.
It’s promising that in the aftermath of these recent attacks, communities have come together to help one another heal. After the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand, police officers in Toronto visited mosques in the city to offer support and protection to the Muslim community. Members of Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist faiths created vigils around the world to stand in solidarity against Islamophobia. And dozens of UC Berkeley students and community members attended a vigil for those killed in the Sri Lanka church bombings earlier this month. While some may overlook the importance of these acts, they are the foundation of trust and solidarity between communities of faith.
That said, interfaith solidarity can’t just be reactionary. Here at UC Berkeley, community members must combat intolerance to ensure people of all religious backgrounds are welcomed on campus. Building lasting relationships between faiths starts with educating yourself on different practices and traditions. Individuals should unpack prejudices by engaging in productive dialogue without hostility.
Despite their differences, all religions emphasize the importance of peace and tolerance. Community members should uplift these shared values to stand against hate.
Even though UC Berkeley hasn’t experienced the same degree of extreme and violent attacks, the campus and the city of Berkeley have nonetheless been the site of other instances of religious intolerance. In the past year alone, anti-Semitic posters were found on campus, two anti-Semitic incidents were reported at the Pacific School of Religion in North Berkeley and a Muslim student felt invalidated in a UC Berkeley religions course.
Often, intolerance stems from ignorance. Through education and unity, individuals can advocate for inclusivity of all faiths on campus. Muslim students have continued to ask administrators for more spaces on campus to observe their five daily prayers, while others spearheaded efforts to secure religious accommodations for Ramadan during final exams in May.
But this burden shouldn’t fall on students of a single faith — all students must push for inclusive practices to ensure that people of all faiths are accepted, welcomed and supported on this campus. Interfaith allyship and advocacy is fundamental to ensuring that students’ right to religious freedom is not just an ideal, but a priority.
UC Berkeley community members may not have control over acts of violence and hatred on a national scale, but they can foster a peaceful coexistence on this campus.