Treat others with dignity in divisive times
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