A Monument to Public Service
Two years ago, this country was rocked by unspeakable acts of inhumanity. From those first terrible moments, a question arose: What path would America follow out of the smoking rubble? Would it be a path of vengeance? One of unity? Of faith?
Our values become apparent in times of crisis. History reflects the courage of our convictions in the path we choose. Just as it did when the synagogues burned, Sacramento has responded by reaffirming its commitment to interfaith understanding.
On the first anniversary of September 11th, the people of the Sacramento area came together for a night of remembrance and celebration of the diversity of our faith community. Members from many different faiths found common enjoyment in the area’s best interfaith music performers. Speakers from a diverse political and cultural framework shared words of peace and inspiration as we reflected upon the unbearable losses of the previous year.
The first Call for Unity built upon a long history of communication and cooperation among the interfaith and ethnically diverse communities in the Sacramento area. The coalition of Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians of all denominations and many others working toward the event wanted to take advantage of the growing momentum and solidarity to serve the community together. Out of the September 11th tragedy came A Call for Unity, and from that call emerged a response — Building Unity.
There is a Buddhist saying, also found in Hinduism and elsewhere, that there are many paths up the mountain, but at the top it is all the same. Though the diverse faiths participating in the Building Unity project are distinct in many of their beliefs and rituals, they share a common command to serve those in need.
Buddhists practice dæna, the necessary virtue of charity and generosity. Central to both the Sikh and Hindu faiths is the tenet of seva — service to all in need. Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam. In Judaism, it is the mitzvah of tzedakah. For Christians of all denominations, it is the giving of alms — zakkau in the original Aramaic.
Zoroastrianism, Shinto, Bahá’í. The list of faiths with a duty to serve the needy grows very long, indeed. For the faith groups participating in the Building Unity effort, the duty to serve others is the bond to our community through which one meets God.
Building Unity brings interfaith goodwill and the duty to serve together in order to build and refurbish homes in Oak Park. In concert with the Interfaith Service Bureau, Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together, and many other faith-based, nonprofit, community, government and corporate partners, we are working together to create safe, affordable housing in one of Sacramento’s most underserved neighborhoods.
Over the past year, Building Unity’s community partners have enjoyed numerous successes. Oak Park PAC approved the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency’s donation of seven lots in the Oak Park Area to the Building Unity project. The city of Sacramento finalized changes to its permitting process and fee structure for infill housing, allowing Building Unity and other infill developers to utilize a more streamlined, cost-efficient process. The Oak Park Renaissance Project has partnered with the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency to refurbish 20 homes.
Spiritual Life Center, Westminster Presbyterian Church, the Sikh Temple of West Sacramento, Trinity Cathedral, Gethsemane Lutheran Church, St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Bayside Covenant Church, Oak Park United Methodist Church, Brahma Kumaris Meditation Center, the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and the Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims have committed to building homes through various interfaith partnerships over the next year.
US Bancorp Foundation, Coldwell Banker, SMUD, Arata Bros. Trust, California state Republican and Democratic legislators together, Allied/Nationwide Insurance, and Citigroup Foundation have all committed to building homes this year. And Workgroup Foundation, an ecumenical group from Denver, plans to refurbish at least 100 homes in Oak Park and Del Paso Heights over the next two years.
California’s Cabinet secretaries are building a Habitat home with state employees this fall. California state employees, through the governor’s mentoring program, may receive matching compensation time in return for volunteering with any Habitat for Humanity affiliate throughout the state. “We are building a monument to public service,” says Grantland Johnson, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency.
With the continued support of the community, Building Unity will expand its efforts over the next few years, working to build 100 homes and refurbish 200 more. A Call for Unity will donate net proceeds of the event to support Building Unity.
The people of Sacramento have chosen the path of unity through several difficult years of crisis and loss. Where our differences could have divided us, we have chosen instead to celebrate our common duty to serve those in need. This generosity of spirit is at the foundation of what it means to be an American.
The efforts of Sacramentans make me proud to be an American. I am proud of our tradition of interfaith cooperation. I am proud that we are able to create common ground by sharing common ground, and to build unity by building in unity. And as we help others along the path up the mountain, we find ourselves closer to the top as well.
This year, in recognition and celebration of this tradition, we are presenting the Building Unity Award for Outstanding Contributions to Interfaith Understanding and Cooperation. Rabbi Brad Bloom, of Congregation B’nai Israel, will present the award to Dr. Metwalli B. Amer, executive director and imam of the Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims (SALAM). The following pages honor Dr. Amer’s many years of service to interfaith values in Sacramento.
As we remember those lost when the buildings fell, we celebrate the friends gained while building unity in their memory.
Building Unity Award
For Outstanding Contributions to Interfaith Understanding and Cooperation
This award is given in recognition of an individual’s outstanding involvement in interfaith work in the greater Sacramento area.
It is given to a person who has consistently worked to bring about greater understanding and respect within the faith community and to bring the faith community together to serve others.
The recipient exemplifies the highest qualities of his or her own faith tradition, and the shared goals of building a society marked by compassion, peace, justice and concern for a sustainable world.
To be eligible for this award, a person must live in the four-county greater Sacramento area and can only be nominated by a member of another faith group. The recipient is selected by a panel of three board members from the Interfaith Service Bureau and two board members from the Building Unity project.
More from A Call for Unity
September 13, 2003 | 8pm | Robert & Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis
Honoring Dr. Metwalli B. Amer
Recipient of the Building Unity Award for Outstanding Contributions to Interfaith Understanding and Cooperation
Celebrate the richness and diversity of our community
Celebrate the richness and diversity of our community
We would like to express our sincerest gratitude, appreciation, and thanks to those who have unselfishly given of themselves and their time to make this evening possible.