The more diverse and the more pluralistic the United States is, the safer it is.
That's the opinion of members of a traveling group of Christians, Jews and Muslims called Clergy Without Borders who will speak at two churches in Chattanooga on Sunday.
"Diversity and pluralism contribute to national security," said Imam Yahya Hendi, founder and president of the nonprofit organization, Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University and member of the Islamic Jurisprudence Council of North America. "The more united we are, the more secure we are."
Three members of the traveling party will speak at 11 a.m. Sunday at Christ United Methodist Church, 8645 East Brainerd Road, and at 5:30 p.m. at First-Centenary United Methodist Church, 419 McCallie Ave. (Kate Lyle West Chapel).
The Chattanooga stop is part of a 15-day tour that will take the group across several thousand miles in 10 states.
The premise of the organization, according to a news release, is the conviction that all religions contain a message of commitment to improving the world, [but] that too often the differences rather than the commonalities become the subject for discussion.
Although moderate voices were heard most often after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, said Imam Hendi, voices of extremism since then occasionally have drowned out the voices of reason.
Indeed, in recent years, he said, voices of extremism and exclusivity seem to have grown louder. He mentioned specifically the threatened 2010 Koran burning by Gainesville, Fla., pastor Terry Jones.
However, Imam Hendi said, he doesn't know whether such voices are increasing or whether the public is hearing about them more.
Either way, he said, "we need to confront [the threat], deal with it and make sure it does not shape the discourse of the United States of America."
"If we give in to those voices," said Rabbi Gerald Serotta, executive director of Clergy Without Borders and founding chairman of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, "we hand a victory to the terrorists."
The 9-11 terrorists, he said, wanted to prove Muslims, Jews and Christians could not and should not live together peacefully in Western society.
"We have to prove we are friends and that we can work together," Rabbi Serotta said. "That's one of the ways we defeat the terrorists.
"We need each other as Americans and as religious people," he said. "The completion of my identity is in learning from Christians and other [faiths]. Our main intellectual point: We need each other -- not, we tolerate each other."
Imam Hendi said he and his other co-presenters will offer several solutions to combat religious intolerance. Among those, he said, are to confront ignorance in our communities and to see what various faiths have in common.
Their presentation, according to Rabbi Serotta, varies with the venue at which they speak. At seminaries, for instance, they might discuss more theology and the religious texts that support pluralism. Elsewhere, he said, they might discuss their interpretation of American pluralism.
For more general audiences, as is likely at Sunday's presentations, he said, they talk about American values, the traditions among various faiths and how those traditions support each other.
Imam Hendi said they have a "pledge and promise" they ask audience members to make: That they will learn about other faiths and that they speak against bigotry in any and every faith.
"People elsewhere," he said, "need to know we are united in one voice [against] extremism and with justice and peace for all."