Parliament Ambassador in Spokane Offers Tips on Being an Ally

Skyler Oberst, an Ambassador of the Parliament of the World's Religions who serves as the President of the Spokane Interfaith Council in the state of Washington, offers interfaith ally advice to communities facing hate and violence in a new article in Huffington Post. 

How to Combat Hate as an Ally

by Skyler Oberst

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With a rise in religious intolerance in the Inland Northwest in recent years, I’ve unfortunately had my fair share of combatting extremism, hate and fear-mongering about our neighbors.

While it may be counterintuitive, responding to hatred is a lot more difficult than you might think. Here’s a couple of things to know as you respond to intolerance in your community.

Know your place.

A local group once contacted me about wanting to “Stand with the Muslim Community” by telling me that they would wave signs downtown with their logos and choose their speakers and have been hard at work planning this response for some time. When I asked them who from the Spokane Islamic Center had they been working with, there was a pause on the phone. They hadn’t thought of reaching out to the local Muslim leadership.

Someone once told me as an ally its essential to always know where you stand when marching for equity, inclusion or justice. You never want to be marching in front of the group you’re advocating for — but rather along side them, arm in arm. For whatever reason, this has proven difficult for organizations and individuals not just in Spokane, but for the nation. It’s too often easy to reduce a tragedy or event to nothing more than a footnote to someone’s political or social cause. This only creates grandstanding and furthers the unending ideological punditry that gets us no where and only insights fear, mistrust and hate.

My suggestion is to remember what your role is in terms of being an advocate and ally. Remember that it’s not about you, and that a true ally shoulders the burden alongside the oppressed, not just for an opportunity for a photo op. Reach out to see if anything can be done and work with the leadership. Be prepared to do anything they need done. Whether that’s cleaning kitchens, mopping floors or helping behind the scenes. It’s essential to have a servant’s heart, and by serving to alleviate stress — even in small instances — is truly the best way to help heal.

Want to read the complete post, you can find this and other blog post from Skyler at the Huffington Post.

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