MEMBERS OF SCHENECTADY CLERGY AGAINST HATE
MEMBERS OF SCHENECTADY CLERGY AGAINST HATE
"We're used to feeling so divided," said Rev. Robert Longobucco, pastor of St. Kateri Tekakwitha parish in Schenectady. "It feels good to understand that, at some very basic levels, we are united. We are united on the broadest understanding of the value of each person."

Father Longobucco is a member of Schenectady Clergy Against Hate. The group, which formed in November, strives to eliminate and combat hate in regard to bigotry, racism, sexism, homophobia and differences in people's faiths. Its mission is to bring communities together.

Founded by Rabbi Matt Cutler of Congregation Gates of Heaven in Schenectady, Schenectady Clergy Against Hate is starting to come into the spotlight with efforts such as a guided discussion on the evening of the presidential inauguration, a prayer service and a walk from the peace pole at Congregation Gates of Heaven to the one at St. Kateri's.

Father Longobucco stressed that the group didn't form because of the tumultuous election, but because of the generally harsh political and social tone that is prevalent in the U.S. today.

"We realized that we needed to bond together to create a place of understanding and a place for dialogue," the priest told The Evangelist.

One of the most popular actions that the group has taken was developing a pledge to speak out against different forms of hate and support those being discriminated against. The pledge also urges people who sign it to be aware of their own personal biases and to reach out and learn about people who are different than themselves.

St. Kateri parish placed more than 1,000 copies of the pledge in church for parishioners to sign. Father Longobucco told The Evangelist that the pledges were taken home as quickly as he put them out.

"People have been very thankful for a chance to look at the issues of the nation in a holistic way," the pastor said.

Many have approached him to talk about Schenectady Clergy Against Hate: "They feel [like they are] a part of the effort. It's really what everyone feels we have to do."

The group is made up solely of clergy, but the events and conversations they sponsor are open to the general public. One event was a discussion with Sheriff Dominic Dagastino of the Schenectady Police Department, a friend of St. Kateri School. The conversation revolved around immigration and the intentions of the Police Department.

It helped the community feel more at peace, Father Longobucco said: "We were reassured that they would take no extraordinary measures to identify people who were not citizens."

One of the keys to success for Schenectady Clergy Against Hate is that it is an ecumenical effort. The group has clergy members from the Jewish, Catholic, Reformed, Sikh, Baptist, Islamic, Methodist, Lutheran and other faith traditions from Schenectady and the surrounding area.

Father Longobucco said the members find common ground in their beliefs.

"We can share a language that I don't often get a chance to share," he said.

Although not all of the religious leaders see eye-to-eye on minute details, they all strive for the overall good of humanity: "Our hearts are in the same place."

(Learn more at www.facebook.com/clergyagainsthate.)