After church disturbance, what the people did then speaks volumes about their values, courage, and commitment

To the Editor:

The assumption of superiority affects how people behave, even if we’re not aware of it, or if we build a case to justify it. “My way is better than your way” is how I’ve heard it described.

If we think our race or religion or culture or gender or political party is better than that of someone else, we’re mistaken. Human beings have always been capable of the best and worst, regardless of their group identity.

The people in the Methodist Church in Voorheesville, as described in last week’s Altamont Enterprise editorial, were doing what too few of us do. They were listening. This time to a Muslim. It could have been a Native American, an African American, a Jew, a Mexican, or in times past to an Italian, an Irishman, a German, a Pole, and on and on.

Back to the beginning of our life on this Earth we’ve had trouble like this. The people at that church on that day were wanting to learn, wanting to understand. In the middle of the meeting, there was a very scary disturbance.

I first learned about this from a friend. Some people felt so threatened, they left. Given the increase in deadly incidents in schools, churches, and elsewhere, it’s a wonder anyone stayed. The agitated man was asked to leave the building, and did.

What the people did then speaks volumes about their values, courage, and commitment. They carried on and vowed to continue. One of the organizers later wisely acknowledged, “I think he [the man who caused the disturbance] was talking from a place of deep belief and one has to recognize that. I come from a place of free speech — where people argue but their speech is respected.”

I think this is also a recognition of the fact that, when we don’t listen to each other, the energy behind our speech and actions often escalates. I commend the women mentioned, the men who acted as protectors, the people who cared enough about human suffering and real democracy to be at that meeting, and the brave children who teach us all. It gives me hope.

Throughout history, there have always been people who stand up for others no matter what, as well as those who join the slaughter and those who sit by. I'd like to repeat the pledge of tolerance, drafted by the Schenectady Clergy Against Hate, that was quoted in the editorial:

“I will seek to deepen my understanding of other cultures, religions, sexual identities and races that I don’t understand. I firmly believe that one person can make a difference and that no person can be an ‘innocent bystander’ when it comes to opposing hate.”

I so pledge.

Dianne Sefcik

Westerlo