SN&R partners with Habitat for Humanity on housing to work against hate

Jeff vonKaenel

We’ve heard a lot of divisive and fear-mongering rhetoric in national politics lately. In Sacramento, our interfaith community has come together to answer this hateful rhetoric with love.

Sacramento’s Muslim community is sponsoring a Habitat for Humanity home. Others in the interfaith community will sponsor a second Habitat home. We will build these two homes side by side. This Build for Unity project will send out a message that our community can come together, to stand up against hate and to celebrate our diversity.

On Tuesday, January 19, several hundred supporters of this project came together to hear Catholic Auxiliary Bishop Myron Joseph Cotta, Congresswoman Doris Matsui and Muslim Imam Mohamed Abdul-Azeez speak.

Matsui’s parents and grandparents were uprooted from their homes during World War II, and she was born in a Japanese Internment camp in Poston, Ariz. She told us that her father didn’t speak much about the time in the camp. He told her he didn’t want his children to carry the burden of what he had experienced.

But, Matsui explained, “I told my daddy we must understand what happened, so we can make sure that it doesn’t happen again. We must have people who understand the experience, so when we see it we will know what to call it.” Despite undergoing this harsh and unfair experience, she has dedicated her life to public service and to making our country a better place to live.

During his speech, Azeez told the audience that, when he and his son were walking together on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day march, his 8-year-old son asked him, “This guy Trump, he really hates Muslims, right?”

Hearing these words, I shuddered. I felt this overwhelming sense of shame and anger.

His son continued: “If Martin Luther King were still alive today, he’d be very upset at Trump, right?”

I think I know what King would have said about this. He preached that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

In Sacramento, we’ve chosen to answer the fear and hateful rhetoric with love and unity. We are kicking off what we hope will be a national project. Muslims, Christians, Jews and members of other faiths are coming together to build two homes that will sit side by side. We will send out a message that we can join together. We do not need to hate. We can celebrate diversity. We can build unity. Across the country, we hope to build 100 Unity homes.

I’d like to send a message to the imam’s son. There are those that don’t know you that may hate you. But, believe me, there are many, many more who love you. We are proud that you live in our city and in our country. These people who love you may not be yelling, so you may not hear them. But soon, you will see Unity houses going up around the country. Each house is making a statement. Each house is a celebration of the diversity of faiths and nationalities that makes our country great. Each house is saying that we love you. And long after the hateful words are forgotten, these houses will still stand.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.