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Sister Anne Martin Phelan

Special to the Herald

The Clinton Peace Coalition is asking community members to share their thoughts on peace in anticipation of this year’s Stop the Hate / Show the Love Annual Walk for Peace on Sept. 20.  

This week, Sister Anne Martin Phelan of the Sisters of St. Francis shares tips on overcoming hate, prejudice, and bigotry.

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The annual Clinton walk to Stop the Hate… Show the Love, will begin at 5 p.m. on Sept. 20 at Clinton Community College.  This year’s theme is “Peace... Imagine that!”  

It seems to us that anger and violence shows a lack of imagination... a failing to look into and beyond what makes us angry and what brings us to violent action.  

There are many resources available from an organization known as The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).  With their permission, I have listed 10 suggestions to help us overcome hate, prejudice and bigotry in our workplaces, our families, and in our city.

Act:  Do something. In the face of hatred, apathy will be interpreted as acceptance — by the perpetrators, the public and, worse, the victims. Decent people must take action; if we don’t, hate persists.

Unite:  Call a friend or co-worker. Create a diverse coalition, churches, schools, civic groups; include children, police and the media. Gather ideas and get others involved.

Support the Victims:  Hate-crime victims are especially vulnerable, fearful and alone. If you’re a victim, report every incident — in detail — and ask for help.  If you learn about a hate-crime victim in your community, show support. Let victims know you care. Surround them with comfort and protection.

Do Your Homework:  An informed campaign improves its effectiveness. Determine if a hate group is involved, and research its symbols and agenda. Understand the difference between a hate crime and a bias incident.

Create an Alternative:  Do not attend a hate rally.  Hold a unity rally or parade to draw media attention away from hate.

Speak Up:  Hate must be exposed and denounced. Do not debate hate-group members in conflict-driven forums. Instead, speak up in ways that draw attention away from hate, toward unity.

Lobby Leaders:  Elected officials and other community leaders can be important allies in the fight against hate.  

Look Long Range:  Promote tolerance and address bias before a hate crime can occur. Expand your community’s comfort zones so you can learn and live together.

Teach Tolerance:  Bias is learned early, usually at home. Schools can offer lessons of tolerance and acceptance.  Children learn from your example.

Dig Deeper:  Look inside yourself for prejudices and stereotypes. Human rights experts recommend starting with the language we use and the assumptions we make about others. Am I quick to label people as “rednecks” or “illegals”? Do I tell gay jokes? Do I look with disdain at families on welfare, or do I try to understand the socio-economic forces that prevent many families from climbing out of poverty?

More often than not, when hate flares up, good people rise up against it — often in great numbers and with strong voices.  Our experience shows that one person, acting from conscience and love, is able to neutralize bigotry. Imagine, then, what an entire community, working together, might do.

The Clinton Peace Coalition invites community members to show their support for peace in our community, by participating in this year’s Stop the Hate / Show the Love Annual Walk for Peace on Thursday, September 20, 2012.  Pre-walk activities will begin at 5:00 p.m. at Clinton Community College, with the opening program beginning at 5:15 p.m.  The walk will begin at 5:30 p.m., concluding at Ashford University with a short closing program and refreshments.  All are welcome to attend this free, community event.  The Peace Walk is planned by the Clinton Peace Coalition.  Members of which are comprised from Clinton Community College, Sisters of St. Francis, YWCA-Clinton, Ashford University, Prince of Peace Schools, Unity Center of Clinton, and community members.  For more information about the Peace Walk, please contact Mardell Mommsen at 563-244-7006 or visit the YWCA website at www.ywcaclinton.org.