The following column was submitted by the Schenectady Clergy Against Hate:
For almost five years now, the Schenectady Clergy Against Hate (SCAH) has worked to serve as a witness and spiritual voice in our community, particularly amidst times of immense change, political polarity, and rising hate.
In the summer of 2020, the racial and ethnic divide in our social and political systems were further exacerbated by the cry of rage of many in the nation at the murder of George Floyd.
The COVID-19 pandemic made racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities clear in the nation and in Schenectady.
SCAH was invited into the streets by civic leaders and local activists to play the same role as we have since our inception, to be a presence of peace.
As clergy grounded in the nonviolent and assertive prophetic wisdom of our collective traditions, we are gravely concerned by the discourse and actions of elected leaders and public safety officials who have sought to silence local activists in recent weeks.
Many of these efforts have been racially tinged and have only deepened the divisions in our community.
They forebode unjust, uncompassionate, and unAmerican attitudes in social and political discourse.
Our community engagement as spiritual and peace witnesses is one of committed presence.
Religious leadership is not to be understood as remaining neutral.
Every religious tradition that makes up the diversity of Schenectady calls in manifold ways to seek justice, to love kindness, and move humbly alongside everything that bears the image of the divine.
History is full of leaders who encourage our commitment to pursue social transformation and well-being. No one should be marginalized.
Justice and kindness for everyone in Schenectady is not too high an aspiration.
Our collective faith traditions teach us that true peace is only found when the voices of the dispossessed are truly heard, not when they are criticized for their tone, grammar, or choice of words.
To hear these voices, one must also be willing to hear the truth of the pain, anger, and sadness that is present.
And we will need to be open to change.
As clergy who seek to continue serving as a presence of peace, we recommit to engaging the community in a way that prioritizes the voices of those who are marginalized among us.
We make a public appeal to all members of the Schenectady City Council, and to Mayor Gary McCarthy, to accept our invitation to the first of a series of round-tables we will organize with colleagues in community and social leadership.
These gatherings will be braver spaces where all voices of Schenectady are welcome to share their struggle, concerns, hopes and aspirations for their families and community if they are in solidarity for a just and compassionate community.
Our hope is that these conversations will provide government, social, and religious leaders with perspectives to articulate better initiatives and policies that directly impact the circumstances of everyone who calls Schenectady home.
Signers: Rev. Sara E. Baron, First United Methodist Church, Schenectady; Rev. Wendy Bartel, Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady; Rev. Lynn Carman Bodden, First Reformed Church, Schenectady; Rev. Natalie Bowerman, Eastern Parkway United Methodist Church, Schenectady; Rev. Peter J B Carman, Schenectady; Rev. Dr. Daniel Carlson, First Reformed Church, Schenectady; Rev. Dr. Timothy Coombs, Trinity Presbyterian Church, Glenville; Rabbi Matt Cutler, Congregation Gates of Heaven, Schenectady; Rev. Donna Elia, Niskayuna; Rev. Lynn Gardner, Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady; Rev. Kathleen P. Gorman-Coombs, Trinity Presbyterian Church, Glenville; Bishop Anthony Green, St. John of God Parish CACINA, Schenectady; Rev. Nicolle Harris, Duryee Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Schenectady; Imam Genghis Khan, Schenectady; Humera Khan, Interfaith Coordinator, Niskayuna; Rev. Jeremiah Bruce Lennox, Nemeton of the Ways; Rev. Robert F. Long, relating with First United Methodist Church, Schenectady (ret.); Rev. Dr. Amaury Tañón-Santos, Schenectady Community Ministries (SiCM); Rabbi Rafi Spitzer, Congregation Agudat Achim, Niskayuna; Dr. Paul Uppal, Guru Nanak Darbar, Niskayuna; Rev. Dustin G. Wright, Messiah Lutheran Church, Rotterdam.