No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.
Reversing the tide of hate is the sacred task of groups around the world. Recently taking up the fight, civic, interfaith and religious leaders in the Troy area have formed the Troy Alliance Against Hate Crimes.
The Troy group’s aim is to engage in education, prevention and advocacy, and to be prepared to respond to acts of intolerance or hate.
“It was something we thought would be good for the city,” says Shawn Flint, who is the Police Service Aide, Community Services for the Troy police department. Troy police Chief Gary Mayer “wanted us to help get this off the ground.”
The effort was a response to department participation in the Michigan Alliance Against Hate Crimes conference. Because the police department would investigate any potential hate crime, the Alliance is a separate organization, but the department is represented by Sergeant Andy Breidenich, who has been instrumental in bringing it together.
“We’re a chair, a voice at the table with everybody. Everybody needs to have a voice at the table,” says Flint.
Dr. Bob Cornwall, Pastor of Troy’s Central Woodward Christian Church and convener of the Troy Interfaith Group is chairing the group, which includes representatives of the Troy Diversity and Inclusion Council, the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, the Sikh Community, Congregation Shir Tikvah, and the Troy Interfaith Group, among others.
The goal, says Cornwall, is broad involvement from the faith community, the business community and the schools, as well as other interfaith and civic entities.
“A lot of people don’t know the difference between a hate crime and a hate bias,” says Cornwall. “Hate crimes remind us that hate bias can lead to hate crimes. What we want people to do is become more aware of their community.”
Michigan’s Hate Crime law is the Ethnic Intimidation Act. The law makes it a felony to harm, or threaten to harm, a person, or the property of the person, “with the specific intent to intimidate or harass” that person “because of the person’s race, color, religion, gender or national origin. The crime is a felony, punishable by up to 2 years and/or up to $5000.00 in fines.
Cornwall says the group plans to create a certification process so that individuals and groups can say “We are certified by the Troy Alliance Against Hate Crimes that we are fighting hate bias. If you can deal with hate bias, hate crimes are not going to take place.”
The Michigan Alliance Against Hate Crimes will hold its next conference on November 14. For more information and registration, go to http://miaahc.com