Last week I was amazed and not surprised to learn about the Flushing Remonstrance, today is the 350 year anniversary of that remarkable act of courage by 30 inhabitants of the Town of Flushing. All United States citizens should know it, I was amazed that I had never heard of this document before but not surprised that such a thing would originate in Queens. Queens is a remarkable example of harmonious coexistence of diverse cultures and respect for all religions today and so it is not surprising that even in its origins it was so.
The Flushing Remonstrance is a remarkable protest written in 1657 by the Town Clerk and the Schout (or sheriff) and also signed by 28 residents of the colony. It was delivered to Peter Stuyvesant in response to a decree that no colonist should welcome Quakers into the community. Peter Stuyvesant was then governor of the New Netherlands.
I particularly love this part of the remonstrance:
“The law of love, peace and liberty in the states extending to Jews, Turks and Egyptians, as they are considered sons of Adam, which is the glory of the outward state of Holland, soe love, peace and liberty, extending to all in Christ Jesus, condemns hatred, war and bondage.”
It goes on to include Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists or Quakers as those they would be glad to,”see anything of God in them, desiring to doe unto all men as we desire all men should doe unto us”
And finally to make the point perfectly clear the concluding chapter says this:
“Therefore if any of these said persons come in love unto us, we cannot in conscience lay violent hands upon them, but give them free egresse and regresse unto our Town, and houses, as God shall persuade our consciences”
As a result of the letter Stuyvesant jailed and then banished the Town Clerk and the Shout and appointed a new Flushing Town government.
It takes individuals to make war and it takes individuals to make peace. If we are looking carefully at events today and back through history we may notice that it takes much more courage to make peace than it does to make war. It is ironic, sad, and immensely disappointing that on this historic day of remembering the signing of the Flushing Remonstrance that we hear about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. So many Pakistanis have been welcomed into Queens. I ask a simple question – if Pakistanis can live in harmony in Queens with Jews, Christians and Hindus in close proximity; how can this kind of harmony and respect infect the consciousness of those in Pakistan.
Even though this is a document not well remembered and little celebrated, the Flushing Remonstrance is a document of such significance that its brilliant ideals were incorporated into the United States Constitution 134 years after its signing in the First Amendment:
“Congress shall make no law respecting and establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”
Please remember the Flushing Remonstrance; celebrate its high ideals. Like the inhabitants of the new Town of Flushing in 1657 we live in a very small world – people of diverse religions and cultures live right next door. We are all siblings and we are enriched by the presence of diverse ideas, expressions, and paths to the divine.
To read the Flushing Remonstrance please go to: http://www.nyym.org/flushing/remons.html
To read the Constitution go to: http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html#Am1