By Beth A. Broadway, President/CEO, InterFaith Works
There is an old folk tune that goes, “We may have come over in different boats, baby, but we’re all in the same boat now.” Some of us came over first-class passage, some deloused at Ellis Island, some came involuntarily chained in a ship’s hold, and some were already here. A true recipe for disaster when starting a nation! The hurt and division between us sometimes seems too great to heal. Especially now, with separation across color lines, including red and blue, we have exhausted ourselves with our righteous anger and debilitating hate.
However, there are concerns and issues that bring us together. We all agree that children should not go hungry, and that people who are fleeing violence should be given safe haven. The Blue and Yellow of the Ukrainian flag across our lawns, and our community’s support for recent refugees bind us to our common humanity. No matter what pin we wear on our lapel, we believe in our nation’s principles of justice and freedom. As we come to the end of another challenging year, we stick our noses just above the pandemic wall, collectively hoping for a new life of health and harmony across our nation and world. We are interconnected, and maybe, just maybe, we can learn to care across our differences.
At InterFaith Works, we have been charged with the mission of affirming the dignity of every person, every religion, and working for racial equity by building bridges. We have been graced with the love and support of Central New York since our founding in 1976. Annually, thousands of people pass through our doors as part of our dialogues to end racism and our programs to serve refugees and elders. We recently added support for 30 food pantries in area churches and mosques. Additionally, we support dialogues between police and neighborhood residents. Seeds of Peace is our program for high school students working to create understanding and peace in their schools.
We launched the Community Campaign for Love to champion acts of love that bring us together as one and combat the crush of hate. Love takes many forms, and here are a few examples of what love looks like to us:
- Our Neighborhood Advisor goes door-to-door across the county, introducing herself to elders who may be homebound. She recently came across an elderly person who did not have a bed. She was able to secure a bed, and volunteers brought sheets and a quilt. This elder is now receiving our services and support.
- A young brother and sister arriving from Afghanistan started their life over after fleeing their country. They were joined by 200 Afghans and 700 refugees from other countries. In the last two years they all received assistance securing housing, jobs, medical needs, food, and support integrating into American schools. Soon these courageous people will be working, buying homes, and becoming citizens with the help of our community.
- A mother and child are receiving much needed food from one of the 30 new food pantries that IFW helped establish during the pandemic. Groceries for 20,800 meals were distributed this year, and a food drive with diverse community representation made this possible.
- High School and college students from across the city and county are gathering in dialogue circles to face the on-going effects of racism and unequal treatment of marginalized people. New programs in the elementary schools are growing.
Together, we can ALL help to bring about the Beloved Community and we invite you to join these efforts to continue to grow and deepen the love in our hearts, minds, and community.
Editor’s note: Beth A. Broadway is the president/CEO of InterFaith Works in Syracuse.