Religious reaction to recent mass shootings

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While the nation is still reeling from the recent shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that killed over 30 people and injured scores of others, religious leaders are speaking out about some of the root causes as they call for various solutions to this growing evil in our society. I would like to share with you some of their statements.

Serenity Lara cries during an Aug, 4, 2019, vigil, a day after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas. Pope Francis joined Catholic Church leaders expressing sorrow after back-to-back mass shootings in the United States. (CNS photo/Callaghan O’Hare, Reuters)

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Frank J. Dewane, chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, issued the following joint statement. “We encourage Catholics to pray and raise their voices for needed changes to our national policy and national culture as well. We call on all relevant committees of the USCCB to outline a reinvigorated policy agenda and pastoral campaign to address ways we can help fight this social disease that has infected our nation. The Conference has long advocated for responsible gun laws and increased resources for addressing the root causes of violence. We also call upon the President and Congress to set aside political interests and find ways to better protect innocent life.”

Johnathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, issued the following statement. “Yet again we turn our thoughts and prayers to a community grieving after another mass shooting potentially motivated by hate and extremism. But thoughts and prayers are simply not enough. We have documented a rise in extremist activity, both online and in our communities. As with too many of these incidents, our experts have again been reviewing the apparent manifesto of an alleged shooter, as well as other elements of his online footprint, to evaluate potential extremist ties, and we have also reached out to law enforcement to provide expert analysis and support.”

Zarina Baber, chair of the Muslim Caucus of America, issued the following statement. “The Muslim Caucus of America stands in solidarity, support and remembrance of the victims and communities affected by the senseless domestic terrorist attacks that took place within 24 hours of each other in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. As additional details continue to be reported and revealed of the mass murders, the Muslim Caucus of America also stands with those law-makers of conscience to condemn these attacks. We also demand all elected officials to take action for common-sense gun reform and the designation of white nationalistic terror as domestic terrorists, similar to Canada, who added white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups to its list of terrorist organizations.”

Anjleen Kaur, executive director of the National Sikh Campaign, issued the following statement. “The Sikh American community is deeply saddened by the shooting in El Paso, Texas. As Sikhs our central belief in our faith is that in the eyes of God all people, regardless of their race or gender, are equal and as Americans our founders declared in our founding documents that ‘all men are created equal.’ We are disturbed by the rise in ideologies in our country that are fundamentally contrary to the core values of our nation and our faith. We pray for the victims and their families in El Paso and also in Dayton, Ohio.”

The National Councils of Churches, the main Protestant organization in our country, issued the following statement. “The combination of readily available weapons of mass destruction and a toxic white racist nationalistic ideology is a recipe for disaster. If we cannot confront these two evils, far greater violence and social disruption awaits our nation. We beseech elected officials to renew the lapsed ban on assault weapons and to require licensing and background checks for gun ownership. We also demand that legislation which has recently passed the House, including HR8, be brought to vote in the Senate and passed. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell must be held accountable for blocking legislation that would have introduced common-sense measures years ago.”

As people of faith from many different religious bodies we have an ethical obligation to speak in one voice opposing the voices and ideologies of hate, racism and violence. May our better teachings and better human inclinations toward acceptance, equality, justice, compassion, mercy and love prevail over the strident and evil voice of hatred and violence.

Father Joseph D. Wallace is director, Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs, Diocese of Camden.