Interfaith gathering aims to show solidarity after election

Erica Snow, Assistant City Editor

Evanston religious leaders plan to hold an interfaith gathering Sunday at Fountain Square for community members to show solidarity following the presidential election.

The event will show that religious leaders are “resolved to stand in mutual solidarity with those groups who may be exposed to undue suffering as we move into a new season in our nation,” according to a statement from Evanston religious leaders.

Rev. Michael Kirby, a member of the interfaith clergy, said the event was inspired by statements made by YWCA Evanston/Northshore and Evanston Township High School, which encouraged residents to support one another following the election of Donald Trump.

Kirby, a pastor at Northminster Presbyterian Church, said different religions have much in common and he wanted to emphasize what unifies Evanston residents rather than what divides them.

“The campaign itself was a campaign that resulted in lots of hurtful things about lots of different groups of people,” Kirby said. “As a result of that, and as a result of the outcome of the election, there are a number of our more vulnerable populations that are feeling at risk. We hear their expressions of fear and concern, and want to respond to them.”

Kirby also said the event could show people who felt marginalized by the election that multiple religious communities supported all Evanston residents, regardless of their identity.

A statement read by ETHS District 202 superintendent Dr. Eric Witherspoon over the school’s intercom the day after the election received widespread support from the Chicago community for his support of students’ identities and message of solidarity.

The YWCA released a statement Thursday on their Facebook page saying, “instead of a glass ceiling shattering, the floor had dropped out from under us.” Rather than act in fear, the statement said, residents should stand up for one another.

Birch Burghardt, president of Interfaith Action of Evanston, said it was important for religious leaders to come together because of the distrust felt by many people after the election.

“The fact that the candidate who put the most people down — and especially people from other countries and non-Christians — that he won is unnerving for a lot of people,” Burghardt said. “All the great faiths that I know of say the same thing and have compassion at their core.”

Burghardt said she will be attending the Sunday event and encouraged students to attend as well.

Rabbi Andrea London of Beth Emet Synagogue, who is also part of Interfaith Action, said she hoped Sunday’s event would focus on hope and togetherness after months of political division.

She said because election seems to have brought bigotry and racism into the mainstream, it made sense for people to lean on their religious communities for support.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if we could really get the full Evanston community to say, ‘Hey, we reject any type of bigotry or discrimination, any kind of hatred,’” London said. “‘That’s not who we are as a community, and we vow to stand make sure that we stand by each other, even if we disagree politically.’”

The event could also be useful to show people feeling vulnerable that religious communities they don’t know much about still care for them, Kirby said. The gathering will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday at Evanston’s Fountain Square.

“It’s an opportunity for people of many, many different backgrounds to get together and express our solidarity with one another, standing together,” Kirby said.

Nora Shelly contributed reporting.

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