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"Justice We Pursue" Blog

Hello, JRLC supporters! My name is Rebecca Mendelsohn, and I recently began an internship here at JRLC. I am originally from New York and currently study Political Science and Human Rights/Humanitarianism at Macalester College.

For as long as I can remember I have been deeply frustrated by inequality. This fundamental conviction has led me to pursue as many volunteer, mentorship, and internship opportunities as possible. Simultaneously, I have done my best to develop this passion from an academic standpoint as well. Eventually, my desire to help others led me to JRLC.

My biggest take away from my time at JRLC thus far has been my heightened appreciation for all of the behind the scenes work that goes into social justice advocacy. Change does not just happen. It takes time and effort. It takes the endless dedication of an ambitious cohort of people. I have also quickly learned that advancing social justice work is possible in many ways. For example, I recently completed a brief research project on the relationship between what state citizens pay in taxes, and how much state programs cost. This project is intended to inform community members where exactly their money is going within the state. The driving thought behind this was to increase awareness on what specific program areas Minnesotans should be advocating for in terms of increasing, or decreasing, levels of state funding. To me, this project serves as an example of how a seemingly unrelated venture can have a direct, and substantial effect on social justice work.

Looking forward, and thinking in terms of long-term career goals, I know I want to continue to dedicate myself to human rights work. In what capacity, though, I’m not quite sure. What I do know is that JRLC has, and is, providing me with an invaluable plethora of skills. Skills I will be able to utilize in many different contexts concerning human rights and social justice work in the future.

--Rebecca Mendelsohn, Macalester '16 (yes, I play ice hockey -- a goalie!)

Faithful Voices in the Public Square

January 28, 2016
6:30pm - 8:30pm
St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral
519 Oak Grove St.
Minneapolis, MN 55403


Join us for a screening of the film "Sisters of Selma" followed by a community conversation on the ways in which Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faiths continue to call people to the work of justice. Sr. Barbara Moore, CSJ, who is featured in the film will be joining us along with other local voices. This interfaith event is free and open to the public. For more information contact Jennifer Nelson at (612) 230-3232 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Sponsored by JRLC and the Justice Commission of the Sisters of St Joseph of Carondelet.

Whether it is the lights twinkling on Christmas trees, the small flames of the Menorah candles, or the stars that emerge as the night descends upon us in the early evening, this is the season of light emerging in the darkness. That commemoration of light that pierces the darkness can also be seen in Christian, Jewish, and Islamic commemorations occurring this time of year.

Jewish communities recently observed Hanukkah, during which they celebrate a time when a small group of Jews drove out a mighty army to reclaim the Temple then experienced the miracle of Temple menorah (candelabra) continuing to burn for 8 nights when it only had enough oil for one night.

This year, Mawlid an-Nabi, the Islamic commemoration of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad also falls during this time of year. Muslims revere the Prophet Muhammad as the final messenger and greatest prophet of God who brought them the light of revelation in their holy text, the Qu’ran.

Christians are soon to celebrate the birth of Jesus, who is sometimes referred to as “the Light of the World.” They believe him to be the Son of God who is one with God, being both fully human and fully divine. He is viewed as the greatest expression of God’s love to humanity.

While we commemorate these spiritual expressions of light, we can’t ignore that our world often seems full of darkness. We read of war, murder, injustice, division, and discrimination. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. So we look to these points of light to maintain hope.

Here at JRLC we are in the business of seeking legislative justice. We strive to join together for the common good in spite of our differences in order to build a stronger Minnesota. In essence this is also an act of bringing light into places of darkness – working to eliminate the darkness of inequity and injustice in our state policies.

As a new year is nearly upon us, we hope that whatever your tradition is, you take the time to pause from the chaos of the world and busyness of daily life to reflect on the hope that occurs when a point of light disrupts the darkness. Look for ways to be a bearer of that light. Carry it to the places of darkness within our communities.  In the words of St. Francis of Assisi…

“All the darkness in the world, cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”

In order to foster interfaith understanding and continued common work for justice, we are publishing this statement written by JRLC Board Member Owais Bayunus.

To all my friends and friends of Muslims,

The incident that has happened in [San Bernardino] California must be a devastating thing that has happened to all Americans in general, and, specifically, to over 99.99% Muslims living in the USA. No words can sufficiently denounce the inhuman killing of innocent people as has happened.

The worst nightmare for American Muslims has come true at the worst time; it's the perfect storm. In this election year, when anti-Muslim rhetoric is already at an all-time high, when some people talk of putting a Muslim symbol on every Muslim so that they may be recognized (like in WWII), and some compare some Muslims as mad dogs. A disgusting inhuman attack has taken place on American soil and the suspects are so-called Muslims. So now we, 7-8 million American Muslims, will all be viewed with suspicion in this country that we love and that we call home and will be the home our children and grand children. We Muslims cannot simply grieve for the victims, like everyone else, but must now live in fear of an Islamaphobic backlash; we fear for our safety and lives. 

To my Muslim friends, especially those who dress visibly as Muslims, please be extra safe as you go about your day-to-day lives and try not to walk alone. To my friends of other faiths, please we need your help in informing the public that 99.99% of America's Muslims are not extremists.

Such violent incidence coming from a very very small minority undermines the message of peace given by the very large majority of Muslims and Islam. I can only quote and believe what Qur'an says,' If you kill a single person for no mischief it is as if you have killed all humanity. If you have saved the life of an innocent person you have saved all mankind" (Qur'an 5-83).

We join with our American brothers and sisters, whatever religion and ethnicity they belong to, to condemn such acts and would very strongly request our agencies to probe and find the real reason behind their act and their motivations. 

Owais Bayunus, Past President & Director of Interfaith
Islamic Center of Minnesota

“Governing for the common good” is a phrase we toss around a lot at JRLC. It is often used as a standard that we use to measure our elected officials. But we also use the term as a standard for active citizens – members of the public who step up to govern in many places, both formal and informal.

We govern for the common good when we serve on neighborhood or congregation committees. We govern inside our families, workplaces, associations, and governments. We govern anywhere we make decisions on “How are we to live together?”

A wonderful group of eight people have stepped forward to lead the transition process at JRLC and guide us into a new era of powerful social justice work. This is the work of governing and it will sometimes be lofty, sometimes mundane, sometimes frustrating, sometimes joyous. Isn’t that the way with active citizenship and public life? JRLC’s Transition Team is just another example of justice-minded Minnesota folks giving of their time, energy, and expertise in order to govern for the common good.

Please hold this Team in your prayers as they work hard for the next several months! They are:

Patrice Critchley-Menor, Chair, Minnesota Catholic Conference
Owais Bayunus, Islamic Center of Minnesota
George Burbie, Minnesota Council of Churches
Sally Lorberbaum, Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas
Doug Mitchell, Minnesota Council of Churches
Bob Rubinyi, Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas
Ashraf Siddiqui, Islamic Center of Minnesota
Jessica Zittlow, Minnesota Catholic Conference

The Joint Religious Legislative Coalition has been an effective interfaith public policy organization for 43 years. This Transition Team now takes up the task of insuring that, for many years to come, JRLC speaks to essential public questions: What is a good society? What makes for a healthy community? What is my obligation to my neighbors? How do we govern ourselves for the common good?

Brian Rusche, executive director