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MISSISSIPPI VOICE AGAINST EXTREMISM DECLARATION

Section 1:  Statement of the Problem

Recognizing the diversity of religious beliefs and philosophical outlooks in our state, we have come together to unite around our universal and common desire to uphold and uplift each other as neighbors and fellow human beings and to affirm and support the following statement against extremism, terror, and violence done in the name of religion.

Our global society is facing an escalating epidemic of religiously-motivated violence that seeks to manipulate and control people through terror and intimidation.  We speak out against all extremist groups who distort religious beliefs to inflame regimes of fear and agendas of destruction for their own self-serving purposes. We reject the use of religious and spiritual traditions to justify the abuse, oppression, and exploitation of human beings.

Section 2:  The Role of Religion Regarding the Threat of Extremism

We understand that the practice of religion is to honor, respect, and love our fellow sisters and brothers as we would ourselves.  We understand religious extremism to be the process whereby individuals or communities reject the civil discourse and instead use violence and terror as a means of forcing political and social change, employing religious and theological resources to justify their destructive actions.

Section 3:  Fundamental Human Rights

The life, liberty, dignity, and security are fundamental human rights for every single person. No human being, or group of persons should be subjected to violence or discrimination on the basis of any physical or social distinction including violence or discrimination  that is motivated and justified by religious beliefs. In this regard, all human beings should be considered as equal and free members of one human family and treated with respect and compassion.

Section 4:  Response Against the Use of Violence in the Name of Religion

AS MISSISSIPPIANS:

We affirm and advocate for fundamental human rights, as described above and as protected by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights, especially in the First Amendment with regard to freedom of religion and freedom of speech, to be applied to all persons.  Furthermore, no religious freedom should be misused to violate the fundamental human rights of other persons.

We affirm and believe that a free, independent, fair, and ethically responsible media is an indispensable prerequisite for a free and peaceful society. Threatening the free and unencumbered exchange of ideas through terror, violence, fear, and intimidation undermines the marketplace of ideas and denies the equal opportunity for religious communities and human life to flourish.

We affirm and encourage learning about different faith traditions and practices in all areas of society and for all persons, so that everyone can be well-informed about the history and ideas of religions, in order to have greater mutual understanding and cooperation among civicly engaged citizens.

We affirm and advocate for positive religious values as an antidote to religious extremism.  We seek to offer hospitality, empathy, and care to all people in order to build stronger and more open societies that celebrate all persons as being equal members of the human family.

DRAFTING COMMITTEE

Fatih Ozcan,  MSEd, President, The Dialogue Institute of Mississippi

Hatice Gonul, MBA, Vice President, The Dialogue Institute of Mississippi

Loye Ashton, Ph.D. Center for International Studies and Global Change, Tougaloo College

James Bowley, Ph.D. Chair of Religious Studies, Millsaps College

Senator Hillman Frazier, Mississippi Senate

Kenneth Townsend, Ph.D., Special Assistant to the President, Millsaps College

Rev. James Carstensen, President, Mississippi Religious Leadership Conference

Dorothy Tripplett, Administrator, Mississippi Religious Leadership Conference

Cade Smith, Ph.D., Interim Associate Dean of Student, Mississippi State University

Meggan Franks, Program Coordinator, Dean of Student’s Office, Mississippi State University

Rachel Ross, Program Coordinator, Holm Cultural Diversity Center, MSU

Cedric S. Gathings, Interim VP of Multicultural Affairs/Director, MSU

Father Jeremy Tobin, O.Praem, Catholic Diocese of Jackson

Rabbi Matt Dreffin, Director of Education, Institute of Southern Jewish Life

Okolo Rashid, Executive Director, International Museum of Muslim Cultures

Sheila Hailey, Chair of History Department, Hinds Community College

Jack McDaniel, Advisory Board Member, The Dialogue Institute of Mississippi

Linda Mann, Advisory Board Member, The Dialogue Institute of Mississippi

Emily Fokeladeh, Ph.D. Mississippi College

Susan Glisson, Ph.D., William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, University of MS

EDITORS

Fatih Ozcan,  MSEd, President, The Dialogue Institute of Mississippi

Hatice Gonul, MBA, Vice President, The Dialogue Institute of Mississippi

Loye Ashton, Ph.D. Center for International Studies and Global Change, Tougaloo College

James Boyley, Ph.D. Chair of Religious Studies, Millsaps College

Special Thanks

Jim Hood, the Attorney General of the US State of Mississippi

Delbert Hosemann, Mississippi Secretary of State

Bishop James Swanson, Methodist Conference of UMC

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, Catholic Diocese of Jackson

Bishop Brian R. Seage, Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi

Alfred Rankins, Ph.D., President of Alcorn State University

Beverly Hogan, Ph.D., President, Tougaloo College

Robert W. Pearigen, Ph.D., President, Millsaps College

President Mark Keenum, President, Mississippi State University

Randell Patterson, MS House of Representatives

Hank Zuber, MS House of Representatives

Jeffrey Guice, MS House of Representatives

Rims Barber, Director of the MS Human Services Coalition, Civil Rights Advocate

Judy Barber, Civil Rights Advocate

Ann Phelps, St Andrew Cathedral

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