This Is Our Story.
At this time of immense uncertainty: strife within our borders and war in the world, we at Bridges Faith Initiative have found solace in our work. We set up Bridges Faith Initiative to create bridges between people that would eventually overcome hate. In the last two years we have had small victories — more understanding in religious communities in the countries we work in and better immigration policies in the U.S. Thank you to all who have supported us thus far. However, there is much more work to be done and we need your support.
Rabbi Joshua Lesser: As a Jewish gay man I have understood only too well the many ways that hate creates danger and breaks down societies. In Atlanta, I have built my rabbinate on building bridges to ensure that symbols of hate are not used to compromise the health and welfare of all Georgians. Now, it is quite heartbreaking for me to see Jews fleeing once again, under the specter of war, from Ukraine, where my personal Jewish ancestors called home.
Recently, I watched Ukraine’s only female rabbi lead Shabbat services as she was fleeing her own home; a testament to her resiliency and the resiliency of so many who have faced wars. Like so many, I am quite tuned into the brutal and insidious nature of this particular war. Yet, my consciousness has been growing that this is not unique, war is often particularly malicious and there are attacks on cultural, ethnic, and religious groups all around the world. Most of which are not following the “humanitarian” rules of war. Wars are not fought in a vacuum. It is clear that non-democratic systems create aggressors.
We are seeing a vast number of refugees and displaced people seeking refuge. While it is heartening to see countries open their borders, I am aware of how many other refugee experiences do not include such a concerted effort, even in wartime. For me, this war must expand my awareness of all wars around the world and violence within the U.S. Moreover, I am understanding how important Bridges Faith Initiative is because it connects the rights of civilian security with asylee and refugee policy.
Ronnate Asirwatham: I have known war for far too long. For the first 30 of my life I lived in Sri Lanka, a country torn by a civil war that was fought on ethno-racial lines. When I hear of the hospitals being bombed and mass graves being found in Ukraine, it takes me back to the April of 2009, when my morning routine was to find out if my friends and family had survived the night of hospital bombings. United Nations experts said war crimes, crimes against humanity, and mass atrocities were committed in Sri Lanka. I know all too well how unjust systems and racial hatred leads to war and then war creates refugees. It is to break this cycle that we started this organization.
In the next year we will continue our work to welcome all refugees and asylum seekers including those from Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Haiti. We will continue our work to bring about understanding between Buddhists and Muslims in Burma and Sri Lanka, and in our own country we will work to bring faith communities together to support voting rights — a cornerstone of civilian security.
We need you help to continue this very important work at this time. Our target goal is $20,000 but any small gift would go a long way. So, please do donate generously and share this email to five friends so that they know of our work too.
Rabbi Joshua Lesser and Ronnate Asirwatham