Like you, I found the massacre of 50 innocent Muslim worshippers at the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Center in Christchurch, New Zealand, horrifying. It is another example of racially motivated hatred that seems to have no boundaries. We stand in solidarity with the families of the victims. There are no words that are adequate for such losses.
While words of comfort are often not enough to speak to the grief of those killed in such horrific ways, I also think that to remain silent is unacceptable. Being silent concerning such events amounts to a small step toward normalizing what can never be accepted as normal or tolerable. It can never be accepted as normal that a person can walk into a space and kill others. Specifically, it can never be normal to do so in the name of an ideology predicated upon a notion of self-superiority and hating those who do not conform to its image. It can never be accepted as normal that lives, lives made in the image of God, can be eradicated by racial hatred.
When asking myself what it is we can do, I struggled. But my Yale Divinity School Dean sent out his comments concerning the event. May I share them with you?
“What can we do? We can pray for the comfort of the victims’ families. We can pray for the perpetrators and those they inspire and ask God to transform hearts steeled by bigotry and hatred. We can work in our own communities to help people find a place to belong. So many of the perpetrators separate themselves from the mainstream of society. We need to find ways to incorporate all. This means that we need to pledge ourselves anew to overcome racism in all of its forms. These acts by white supremacists are the most violent and horrific expressions of racism, but they point to the evil of racism in all its degrees of intensity.”
I hope that we will all not only stand for the equity and belonging that Jesus proclaimed, but work to bring this about in our own communities. I hope that we can be attuned to those around us and to be sensitive to those in need. That we will cultivate hearts of compassion which continually seek out the love of God to all, in all, and through all. May we be refuge for the complicated, the downtrodden, the hurting, and the overlooked. May we invite those and others into our community so that they can see the love of God at work within our congregation, a congregation filled with the curiosity and tender awe of God revealed in Christ.
We are a people who sense the urgency of sharing the reality of God to others. We are a people who welcome others into our door and who invite others to come and “taste and see that the Lord is good”. I know that we are, because you showed it to me when I was a newcomer to your church not too long ago. May we continue to stand as witnesses of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the message that changes the world.