Treat oth­ers with dig­nity in di­vi­sive times

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - RELIGION - By Jim Smith Wood­land Daily Demo­crat

Di­vi­sive times call for in­creased faith in our­selves, our so­ci­ety and — de­spite the dif­fi­culty it im­poses on each of us per­son­ally — a recog­ni­tion that all de­serve a mea­sure of hu­man dig­nity.

That was one of the over­ly­ing mes­sages at the 17th An­nual Cel­e­bra­tion of Abra­ham held at St. James Catholic Church over the week­end, at­tended by nearly 100 people of var­i­ous faiths from across Yolo County.

Founded af­ter the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist at­tacks on the United States, the mis­sion of Cel­e­bra­tion of Abra­ham is to cre­ate a wel­com­ing “tent for people of all faiths and be­liefs to nurse a sense of com­pas­sion, re­spect, ap­pre­ci­a­tion, and fos­ter learn­ing and un­der­stand­ing among the three Abra­hamic tra­di­tions.”

As they have for many years, people set about talk­ing over the topic cho­sen, wash­ing each oth­ers’ hands, break­ing bread to­gether and striv­ing to reach a com­mon un­der­stand­ing.

This year, as a group ex­er­cise, the roughly 100 people at­tend­ing were asked to use pa­per, pens and crayons and then trace one of their hands. The trac­ings were later adorned with phrases and pic­tures that they might com­monly as­so­ciate with treat­ing oth­ers with hu­man dig­nity.

Try­ing to grasp the con­cept of “hu­man dig­nity” is dif­fi­cult, as Michael Hirsch of the Con­gre­ga­tion of Bet Haverim in Davis said at the open­ing of the “con­ver­sa­tion.”

“Dig­nity, an at­tribute usu­ally re­served for us hu­mans is not easy to de­fine,” he said. “In fact, to para­phrase Jus­tice Ste­wart in a case re­gard­ing ob­scen­ity, it may be hard to de­fine, but it is rec­og­nized when it is seen or even when it is de­nied. It is easy to over­look the fun­da­men­tal dig­nity of an­other per­son, par­tic­u­larly in times of po­lar­iz­ing par­ti­san­ship, hate, marginal­iza­tion, and xeno­pho­bia. Un­for­tu­nately, to­day, we are not strangers to any of those oc­cur­rences. Th­ese, in­deed, are times that try our souls.”

Nonethe­less, Hirsch said, “People can­not strip them­selves of the dig­nity of which they are en­dowed.

“We know that people can do hor­ri­ble things,” he con­tin­ued. “We must re­mem­ber the adage that says just be­cause you find one bad ap­ple does not mean you should aban­don the whole tree.”

“Per­haps, know­ing that dig­nity is hard to de­fine, we could agree that dig­nity re­flects a state of be­ing hon­or­able or worth­while. The United Na­tions, in its Univer­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Hu­man Rights, re­garded dig­nity as the bedrock for hu­man rights. It is the foun­da­tion upon which self-worth rests. Hu­mil­i­a­tion de­nies the ex­is­tence of dig­nity, as does un­pro­voked vi­o­lence or in­tru­sion into the right­ful pur­suit of sat­is­fac­tion and hap­pi­ness in one’s life.

“Home­less­ness and sus­tained hunger also serve to un­der­mine one’s own sense of per­sonal dig­nity,” he noted.

“There can be many dif­fer­ent def­i­ni­tions of hu­man dig­nity,” said He­len Roland, chair­woman of the Cel­e­bra­tion of Abra­ham and a mem­ber of the Davis United Methodist Church. “Even though there is not a sim­ple def­i­ni­tion of hu­man dig­nity, we rec­og­nize this as a core value in our re­la­tion­ships with oth­ers and see how our com­mu­nity is stronger when we are able to un­der­stand and main­tain this value.”

Cel­e­bra­tion of Abra­ham is spon­sored by a num­ber of spir­i­tual or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing Con­gre­ga­tion Bet Haverim/Jewish Fel­low­ship of Davis, The Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints, Davis Com­mu­nity Church, Davis Friends (Quaker) Meet­ing, Davis Is­lamic Cen­ter, Davis Lutheran Church, St. Martin’s Epis­co­pal Church of Davis, SALAM Cen­ter of Sacra­mento, the Uni­tar­ian Univer­sal­ist Church of Davis and the Wood­land Mosque.

The event it­self was at­tended by people across Yolo County.

“We must re­mem­ber the adage that says just be­cause you find one bad ap­ple does not mean you should aban­don the whole tree.” — Michael Hirsch

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