Formed to address intolerance, the Community Responders Network launches Sept. 12, 3 p.m. at an Interfaith Service in remembrance of 9/11. The service will be held at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral, 221 North Front Street, Harrisburg.
The network will provide concerned citizens with guidance and procedures on how to deal with the immediate impact of intolerance.
Later this month on Sept. 21, Silent Witness Peacekeepers activist Alanna Berger, Rabbi Carl Choper, Margee Kooistra, and Rev. Jim Brown will accept the Jane Addams Peace Award from the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg for their work in bringing the group together.
The CRN originally started in response to the anti-Muslim DVD that began circulating during the 2008 election campaign. Berger, and others, was asked to join the network because of Silent Witness Peacekeepers philosophy of non-violent response to spiritual violence. Silent Witness is best known in the region for its participation in the annual Central PA Pride Festival.
During the network’s planning stages, the group discussed possibly responding to physical attacks, graffiti, vandalism, KKK or other supremacist groups, as well as lgbt-related events. Recently, the network responded to the Aug. 13 appearance at the state capitol by the National Organization for Marriage. NOM opposes same-sex marriage.
“We want to them know they are not alone,” Berger said in an email. “If necessary, we will make public statements denouncing the attacks and in support of the people or groups attacked.” The network works closely with the Pennsylvania Human Relations commission Task Force on Civil Tension. “Our role would be to make sure the victims know where to get help,” Berger said. The network will not take the place of police.
The rationale for forming the network addresses what Berger called “the lack of an effective way to speak out on behalf of members of our community who have been the targets of harassment, intolerance or hate.
The group’s news release states that “whether African American, Jewish, Native American, or someone whose ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, or physical limitations sets them apart, there are those in our community who have been the victims of inhumane and even harmful treatment by others.” The release notes that since 9/11, Muslims in this area and throughout the US have been subjected to increasing incidents of intolerance. “Frequently, these individuals have not received support from the larger community,” the release said, continuing “The Community Responders Network was created out of this concern by a diverse group of religious and community leaders because in addition to Muslims, there are many other groups who are set apart and attacked. The network’s intention is to support those who are victimized and to speak out with a moral voice to say: “Intolerance is unacceptable in our community”.