CONECT was founded almost 12 years ago as a non-profit, non-partisan, membership organization made up of religious and civic institutions: urban and suburban, multi-faith, and racially and ethnically diverse, in New Haven and Fairfield Counties of Connecticut. We organize a broad, diverse, and powerful mix of faith and community institutions to build relationships, develop leadership, take action, and win concrete change on a broad range of social, racial, and economic justice issues that affect our member congregations, institutions, and communities.
Our work is often slow, as we believe in the power of relationships built through deep listening, story telling, and the ability to hold a wide variety of views. Our work is made even more powerful, and challenging, when it is interfaith. There are many things that separate our faith traditions, but we unite to identify and take public action on the social issues that we mutually agree upon to make a real difference in the lives of people in Connecticut, something all of our global faith traditions inspire us to do.
This past week, we spent hours in individual conversations locally, hearing pain, grief, fear, and worry for the lives of loved ones living in Israel and the Gaza Strip. We heard many in our communities feeling misunderstood, not valued, under siege, deeply connected to people thousands of miles away, with a visceral fear that “my people,” “my family” are about to be annihilated. We heard many stories, experiences, and emotions among our Jewish and Muslim leaders – mourning, anger, and anguish, fear for loved ones in harm’s way, worries about already mounting hateful backlash against each community here in the US. We are disgusted by and condemn the bomb threats against Congregation Mishkan Israel and the Bridgeport Islamic Community Center and stand in full support of their right to worship freely and safely. In addition, we are grateful for the inspiring joint statement published by two of our members, the Bridgeport Islamic Community Center and Congregation B’Nai Israel, last week.
Last night, during a two-and-a-half hour Strategy Team meeting, after a weekend of worshiping in our individual faith communities, we came together as one to listen again and strive for a way forward. To honor the voices, experiences, and communities that have historically been and continue to be the most marginalized, the Strategy Team agreed that if we could not come to a unanimous statement, we would not issue one. Instead, the Strategy Team came to a consensus for the Co-Chairs to share a reflection about where we have been and where we are now. We, as Co-Chairs, are holding the tensions of our membership, our own personal convictions, and our commitment to remaining in relationship. Our power to act publicly for the common good is strengthened when we choose to remain in committed relationships across all lines of difference, even when it is most difficult, especially when it is most difficult.
We recognize this reflection may be unsatisfying to some. Additionally, we acknowledge that we are speaking as two Christians on issues that most directly affect Muslim and Jewish peoples. Nonetheless, we feel compelled to offer this reflection on both the opportunities and challenges of CONECT’s interfaith work. We bear witness to what the best of interfaith work can be throughout our nearly 12-year track record of wins in our state. Two weeks ago, we witnessed how powerful interfaith work could be as we gathered at member synagogues to learn and engage in anti-racist relational power built on the pillars of trust, time, and togetherness. Now, we witness the most challenging aspects of interfaith work, balancing our commitment to our faith traditions and faith communities, while continuing relationships across our diverse membership. We remain committed to ongoing one-to-one relational meetings within and between our congregations leading up to our time together in our November regional gatherings.
As we have always done, we remain committed to engaging in local peaceful, democratic dialogue. We remain committed to listening to the voices of those directly impacted. We pray for an immediate cease fire, an end to all violence and terrorism, the safe return of all civilian hostages, and the immediate entry of humanitarian aid, water and food supplies to civilians in Gaza. Finally, we pray for a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Rev. Philippe E. C. Andal, Ph.D., Co-Chair
Senior Pastor, Community Baptist Church
Elizabeth Keenan, Ph.D., Co-Chair
Friends of CONECT Action Caucus