FISHKILL – Dozens of locals from a variety of religious backgrounds came together for the fourth annual “All for one and one for all-united we stand, divided we fall” event, hosted by Dr. Seema Rizvi, the Mid Hudson Islamic Association and other local religious organizations.
Dr. Rizvi spoke to the growing hate crime in this country and around the world, pointing to a handful of incidents from last year alone.
“When I see the rise in hatred and marginalization, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, my objective is based on addressing conflicts and issues related to humanity,” said Dr. Rizvi. “My objective is based mostly on the universal declaration of human rights.”
As the divide in the country grows, it makes having an event like this even more meaningful for Dr. Rizvi.
“In this room, I see a huge gathering full of diversity, compassion and enthusiasm,” she said to the crowd. “This shows we are truly united, not divided. The question is: why are we seeing more violence and mass shootings? It is time to focus on who we are. We are strong when we are together and strongest and when we act together.”
Mark Dema, a retired English teacher who taught poetry, performed an original composition on bringing people together. Before he performed, he gave a speech on how all religions share the same core values.
As a longtime friend of Rizvi’s, Dema appreciates what she is doing for the community in hosting this event each year.
“I see the country as divisive right now, and it’s a good thing, because it’s encouraging people to communicate with each other,” Dema said. “Once you communicate and realize your commonality, it’s all good, so [she]’s doing a good thing.”
Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro, State Senator Susan Serino (R, Hyde Park) and Fishkill Town Supervisor Robert LaColla each spoke during the event on how they are working to address the climate of hate in this country on the local level.
Molinaro spoke about how the county appointed a human rights commissioner to address ongoing issues related to human rights.
“Too many times as a community, we have had to come together to recognize that our nation was built on a fundamental belief: that we are endowed with unalienable rights,” he said.
Serino talked about her Serino’s Superstars program, which acknowledges students who have shown an act of kindness and respect.
“It’s amazing to go to the schools and every one of the kids that we have given the certificates to have had the whole class behind them,” Serino said. “We need that message of kindness and respect with everything that is going on in this country today.”
LaColla was awarded for his work in improving the quality of human rights for the community he serves, along with Vassar College chaplain Rev. Samuel Speers. LaColla spoke to the crowd about how society often moves faster than the government.
“Typically by the time the legislation gets through, whatever the problem was has already changed,” he said.
Over the last three years, FBI data reported a 17 percent rise in hate crimes. Additionally, there has been a 23 percent increase in religious hate crimes and a 37 percent increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes.
The organizations who worked alongside the Mid Hudson Islamic Association to put on this year’s event included the Dutchess Human Rights Commission, the Mid Hudson Refugee organization, and the Dutchess County Interfaith Council.