I went to bed last night aware that something horrible and hate-filled was happening in Christchurch, New Zealand. I woke up to learn of the extent of the horror and hate. Forty-nine people killed by terrorists in an orchestrated act of hate. Forty-nine human beings--each someone's daughter or son, friend or spouse, each with gifts to offer our world. Forty-nine people worshipping God together, following the teachings of Islam--whose name means "peace."
It is horrifying on so many levels. It is horrifying to try to fathom the grief of the families and friends and community of the people killed . It is horrifying to acknowledge the terrible trauma experienced by everyone there and everyone who fears it happening in their own community. It is horrifying to be confronted yet again with the reality of the power of hate. There is a particular kind of horror, for me, associated with violence in a house of worship, for it feels like a violation of our deepest human yearnings for connection with the sacred. And there is a particular horror with this act because it is part of a larger, global pattern of hate directed at our Muslim siblings.
What do we do in the face of such horror?
We begin by grieving together--acknowledging our sorrow and confusion and outrage, honoring the lives of each one of those 49 people.
We reach out to our Muslim neighbors, and let them know they are not alone. We ask them how we can be in solidarity. This morning there are many emails and phone calls and texts happening, as we try to figure out how we can grieve tighter and show our solidarity with our Muslim friends. As plans develop, we will get the word out.
We recommit ourselves to our on-going efforts, as our mission statement says, "to celebrate and deepen understanding of our diverse spiritual and cultural traditions." This is long-term work, for building understanding takes a long time.
I am struck by how quickly hate seems to have an impact--a single act can strike terror into the hearts of people all over the world. The impact of love seems to be much more gradual; it takes many conversations and programs, many acts of showing up and expressing solidarity to build trust and understanding. With all my heart, I believe that love is more powerful.