The constant objectification of people and organizations as enemies and outsiders must come to an end. Political, religious, and civic leaders have the responsibility to exemplify what it means to face the important issues of the day with respect and decorum. How we speak about an issue is as important as the issue we speak about. Those charged with leadership must raise the caliber of the discussion to the human and humane level.
We are heart-broken concerning the killings and injuries at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. We stand in solidarity with the Jewish Community everywhere as we seek an end to anti-Jewish hatred. We mourn with the people of Pittsburgh as we grieve with the Tree of Life Congregation.
We must be honest as a Nation to confront the systematic causes of hatred that lurk deep in our roots. The irresponsible rhetoric of our governmental leadership has emboldened the bigotry, racism, and prejudice that continue to threaten our very survival as a free people. What was once found only on the fringe of our society has now been given permission to come into the light. What should we expect when our leadership idealizes assaulting journalists, mocks physically challenged people, dehumanizes political opponents, and prioritizes campaigning over solidarity with those who suffer violence or disaster.
It is critically important for the Interfaith Community to stand up for what is just and true as we continue to recognize the dignity and rights of all people to live in harmony and peace. We join with the high school students of Pittsburgh who responded to the violence at their local Synagogue with chants of “Vote!, Vote!, Vote!” Rather than demand revenge, the students are calling for responsible and empathetic governmental leadership.
The Rabbi of the Tree of Life Congregation, Jeffrey Myers, had the courage to confront our politicians for their inaction concerning gun violence after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting. In his blog, he wrote a piece entitled, “We Deserve Better,” which is more than appropriate in this terrible situation:
“Despite continuous calls for sensible gun control and mental health care, our elected leaders in Washington knew that it would fade away in time. Unless there is a dramatic turnaround in the mid-term elections, I fear that the status quo will remain unchanged, and school shootings will resume. I shouldn’t have to include in my daily morning prayers that God should watch over my wife and daughter, both teachers, and keep them safe. Where are our leaders?”
We must confront the dangerous rhetoric and thoughts that might be found in the depths of our hearts. We must disarm our hearts and recognize the sacredness of others. We must realize that this is the time for all responsible citizens to reestablish democracy and contribute to a society founded on common decency and common sense. We must resist the temptation to isolate ourselves from the World Community as if human rights were not the standard of what it means to be a legitimate Nation.
We express our sympathy to Rabbi Myers and his Congregation. We share in the grief of the people of Pittsburgh, PA. We stand with our Nation as together we strive to be a better people free from hatred, prejudice, and fear of others. Indeed, we deserve better.
Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P. and the Board of Directors
The Interfaith Peace Project