On Friday October 20, 2017, I spoke on a panel as part of the third annual Advance Initiative Conference. The conference, hosted at Stone Hill Church in Princeton, NJ, is a national gathering of church leaders, primarily of Indian descent, who seek to provide a more profound understanding of biblical application for churches that service immigrant and second-generation American communities. My panel focused on the role church leaders who preside over congregations who are primarily Indian American can play regarding the important dialog of faith-based initiatives toward racial reconciliation and justice.
As a member of the panel, I spoke about the need for faith leaders to use their faith and their position of authority within their respective congregations to champion civil rights, and thereby mobilize their congregations toward collective action in advancing the cause of justice. I referenced the historical context behind the binary of black and white — stemming from the centuries-long history of chattel slavery, Jim Crow, and other forms of racial oppression within the US — and how that black and white binary dominates conversations of race in the US context.
In so doing, I explored how that dynamic typically overlooks the unique challenges of other racial groups (i.e. Asians, Latinos, etc.) in combating racism and xenophobia. I emphasized that a more holistic pursuit of justice must seek to advocate for the civil rights and liberties of all marginalized people. Moreover, I referenced the notion that Muslims, who are often people of color and/or immigrants, need targeted advocacy (particularly from allies outside of Islamic faith) because of the routine ways in which heightened racial tensions, xenophobia, and bigotry targets Muslims and people of color.
My panel occurred during the main session of the conference, and had roughly 100 faith leaders from across the country in attendance. I made significant connections with several faith leaders, and have plans to meet with some in the coming weeks to continue the dialog began in my panel discussion.