WASHINGTON, D.C. — Representatives of 15 nonprofit organizations gathered at the White House last December to launch a new effort to “celebrate and protect America’s tradition of religious pluralism.”

Called “Know Your Neighbor (KYN),” the project encourages Americans to move beyond religious and ethnic stereotypes and to foster conversations on religious diversity and respect.
“As a nation of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, non- religious and more, we live and work together; yet, we are often unaware of the basic traditions and deepest values of our friends and neighbors,” reads an introductory statement at knowyourneighbor.us.

“We need to develop a greater understanding of one another — beyond the caricatures and the sound bites — because knowing our neighbors matters,” the introduction continues. “More importantly, we believe a deeper understanding in one another reveals our common humanity.”

American Baptist Churches USA was represented at the meeting. Outgoing General Secretary Roy Medley said of the coalition’s mission: “In our inter-religious interactions, neither of us dilutes our faith, and neither of us understands the other’s faith to be a barrier to building a community in which everyone is honored equally.”

Suzii Paynter of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Brent Walker of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty also participated in the launch.

Walker, who took part in a panel discussion, said America’s religiously plural democracy and religious freedom depend not only on constitutional protection against governmental interference, but also “on the willingness of American citizens on a personal level to understand and respect each other, including our differences.” NJF

By John D. Pierce