- Associated Press - Friday, November 18, 2016

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Religious leaders across Vermont on Friday called for a stop to hate-filled speech and actions around the country and in the state since the presidential election and urged unity and a greater commitment to fighting oppression and injustice.

There have been reports of racist threats and anti-Semitic speech and actions around Vermont, said Earl Kooperkamp, rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Barre. A Jewish community organization in Middlebury, Vermont, said someone drew two swastikas on its door this week.

“Our faith calls each one of us here today,” Kooperkamp said at a press conference on the Statehouse steps held by Vermont Interfaith Action, a coalition of 42 congregations throughout the state. “Our religious traditions teach us to respect, respect the dignity of every human being. And we deplore racist … anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist, Islamophobia and anti-immigrant actions and speech that has been on the rise throughout our country. We urge all Vermonters to open their hearts and to find in our true, fundamental unity,” Kooperkamp said.

The fear caused by such hateful acts “hurts us all,” he said.

There are people who feel threatened and unsafe because of the color of their skin, who they love or the religion they practice, said Rev. Joan Javier-Duval, minister of the Unitarian Church of Montpelier.

“We call for a recommitment to listening for the truth in one another’s stories, hearing each other’s pain even as we carry our own and understanding one another in new ways even as we defy hate and continue in the struggle toward justice and greater equality,” she said.

Vermont Interfaith Action clergy caucus plans a sabbath focused on listening to one another and healing during the weekend of Jan. 8-9 before the presidential inauguration.

Rabbi Amy Small, of the Ohavi Zedek Synagogue, urged patience and working together with other religions.

“There’s been a simmering discontent in this country, and it boiled in this month,” she said. It will take time to cool down, she said.

She said the actions for healing and repair have to be careful and thoughtful, in the spirit of respect, compassion love and unity.

“It’s going to take time, and it’s going to take work,” she said.

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