Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Faith Communities Unite To Renounce Hatred

Father Bernie Etienne, Pastor of Holy Rosary Parish in Evansville and Diocesan Administrator, speaks to attendees before beginning a reading of the full text of the statement. The Message photo by Tim Lilley

More than 20 members of the greater Evansville faith community gathered in the narthex of the University of Evansville’s Neu Chapel on Aug. 29 to publicly renounce hatred and offer a formal statement to that effect. More than 65 representatives of numerous faith traditions signed the statement, which appears on page 3 with the list of signees.

“Today, we stand for the sacred worth of all people,” said Rev. Tamara Gieselman, University of Evansville Chaplain. “We are here to speak the Good News and promote peace.”

Recent events in Charlottesville, Va., and elsewhere across the country prompted a number of faith leaders to draft a statement originally released by the Evansville Executive Interfaith Partnership. “This is part of an ongoing effort to proclaim that all people are created by God and have dignity,” said EEIP member retired Rev. Joseph Easley of the United Methodist Church. “Our group released this statement after the events in Charlottesville because we did not want to delay a response by our area’s faith community. Since then, we have refined and condensed the statement; and as you’ll see by the signatures, a large number of pastors and other representatives of faith traditions have joined us.”

‘This is what gives me hope’

Rabbi Garry Mazo of Temple Adath B’nai Israel looked around the room at those gathered for the press conference as he began to speak. “I look around … and this is what gives me hope,” he said.

“We have rallied together and created this statement; we took a positive approach. It is so easy to respond to hate with hate,” he added. “Here in Evansville, we respond to hate with love.”

Diocese of Evansville Administrator Father Bernie Etienne was the first of six representatives of faith communities to share the reading of the statement’s full text. “Jesus tells us that the whole of God’s law is fulfilled through the love of God and the love of neighbor,” he said as he began the statement.

Other readers included Rev. Michael Irwin, pastor of Christ Church United Church of Christ; Omar Atia of the Evansville Islamic Center; Bishop A. Lance Farr of the Evansville Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; Pastor Ange Humphrey of the Fresh Air Community of Faith; and Dr. Saiyid Shah of the Islamic Society of Evansville.

Rev. Gerald Arnold, Pastor of Independence Missionary Baptist Church and President of the Evansville Branch of the NAACP, concluded the formal press conference by discussing the importance of standing together against hatred and bigotry. “I am 73 years old,” he said, “and throughout most of my life, I have endured racism, hatred and bigotry. I thank God for this coming together.”