Religion Can Play a Vital Role to Reduce Hate Crimes

Faith-Based Solutions Can Help Build Community Unity and Understanding

SACRAMENTO, CA (April 19, 2023)ACT Against Hate Alliance (AAHA) was founded in 2022 to take urgent action to find and suggest solutions in response to a troubling rise in hate crimes in California. According to statistics from California Attorney General Rob Bonta, the number of hate crimes committed in California has risen by nearly 90-percent over the past decade. The numbers cited by his office undermine the legacy of California as a place of inclusion and acceptance for all people.

The AAHA media forum for the month of April focused on experts from the religious community to address the causes of, and help identify solutions, in response to the rising numbers of hate crimes and hate incidents. Religious leaders have a great opportunity to reach out to their communities and use their influence to bring people from all walks of life together and to connect in a meaningful way.

These leaders included Dr. Dawn Michele Whitehead. She serves as Vice President of the Office of Global Citizenship for Campus, Community and Careers at the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U).

“Our goal is to see ourselves in a world where people of differing views and religions can live together in peace and maintain their distinctiveness,” Whitehead said during the AAHA April meeting. “That is religious pluralism. We are focused on working toward proactive engagement, which contributes to ending hate among groups.”

Rabbi Sarah Hronsky is the President of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California. She firmly believes that hate crimes can be reduced in California if all faiths show a unified approach to protecting all communities against crimes of hate and acts of violence.

“Words can harm,” Hronsky says. “The bonus is words can also heal. When anyone in California is the target of hate we stand with them in support. One role of religion is to recognize when someone is targeted as a victim of hate, and to stand with them in solidarity against hate.”

Rabbi Hronsky’s lessons found support from Dr. Mohamed Zuhdi Jasser. He is the President and Founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. Jasser, who served as a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy, believes that Muslim leaders should actively oppose a culture of separatism and instead embrace all people.

“Our mission has been to look beyond ethnicity and skin-deep definitions of what it means to be Muslim, and to look at ideological diversity,” Jasser said during the AAHA forum. “As I learned in the Navy, when you put nine or ten threads together, and intertwine them, they are much stronger than they are by themselves.”

The current Abbot of the Hsi Lai Temple located in Hacienda Heights in Southern California brought an interesting perspective to the AAHA April forum. Hsi Lai Temple is a branch of Fo Guang Shan, a Buddhist organization from Taiwan. The Venerable Hui Dong brings a humanistic approach to fighting crimes of hate.

“Cultivating inner peace through spiritual education can help people learn how to face adversities in life,” the Venerable Hui Dong revealed during today’s forum. “We are living in a chaotic era. There are conflicts in life, wars between nations, and clashes between ideologies. A good way to stop hateful behaviors, and to have happiness and peace in life, is not from conquering others, but through respect, love, and mutual understanding.”

Senator Bob Huff and Mei Mei Ho Huff formed AAHA. They have devoted their careers to public service and building community programs. They have both identified the issue of rising hate crimes as one of the most important confronting our society today because of its reverberating impact across the entire country and beyond.

“We must come together, as we have done on so many pressing issues, and work to stop this devastation,” said Mei Mei Ho Huff. “No one is left unscathed when hate crimes take place, and we all have a responsibility to act.”