Over the last few weeks, the news on TV has been overwhelming. Along with many of you, I have struggled to know what to do with my outrage, distress and fear at acts of hatred and terror in places that are supposed to be safe.
This week the news has hit home. Two hate-filled, threatening notes were found in a student’s mailbox at Hemenway Elementary School in Framingham. The student is Muslim, and the notes appeared to target her because of her religion. My outrage, distress and fear feel even more real. This is about our children, our neighbors, our community.
The Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Robert Tremblay, invited interfaith clergy members to meet with him this morning. I had the opportunity to see first-hand the thoughtfulness and care with which the teachers and school administrators are seeking to respond. They are conveying a clear message that hatred has no place in our schools. They are trying to find out what happened and why. They are working to keep our children safe and to make this a teachable moment. I am grateful for all they are doing.
As I think about what we at Open Spirit can do, I am aware of many layers of concern that need to be addressed:
There is concern for the young student, her family and faith community. No one should receive hate-filled notes. No one should be targeted because of their religion. In recent decades, Muslims in our nation have experienced hate speech and crimes with frightening frequency. It is wrong. We want our Muslim neighbors to know we value them and the many gifts they bring to our community.
There is concern for the students, teachers, and staff at Hemenway, who work hard to create an environment of respect and appreciation for diversity. This violation of the school’s values is devastating. Their sense of safety has been shaken. We want our friends at Hemenway to know we are with them as they heal from this violation.
There is concern for whoever wrote those notes. We need to find out why, and we need to address the underlying issues. We need for them, and for all of us, to understand that expressions of hatred will not be tolerated.
There is concern for our wider Framingham and MetroWest community. We must come together to say a clear, strong no to hate. And we need to say yes as well: yes to the hard and ultimately joyous work of learning from one another. Our new Multi-Faith Collaborative is working to develop opportunities to build stronger relationships between people from different spiritual traditions and perspectives. Our Nourishing Teachers-Strengthening Classrooms project is exploring ways to offer support to Hemenway teachers during this stressful time, in gratitude for their care for our children.
The vision of Open Spirit is “to be a source of hope and healing in our divided world.” We are challenged to live that vision in our own community.