For the E-votional this week, I am sharing the response from the Interfaith Council of Suburban Maryland. This was written by faith leaders from the Muslim, Jewish, Unitarian, and Protestant communities from Bowie and the surrounding areas.
On the morning of June 12th, our nation awoke to the horrific news of yet another mass shooting. A 29 year old man entered Pulse, a well-known gay nightclub, and took the lives of 49 people and injured many more. Even before information was readily available, blame was assigned. It was a terrorist attack. It was the LBGTQ community’s fault. It was ISIS. It was Muslims. It was immigrants. The truth is that this is multi-faceted and there is enough blame to go around.
In the shadow of this tragic event, the Interfaith Council of Suburban Maryland came together. We came together to pray, we came together to mourn, and we came together to say “ENOUGH.” Enough of the culture of hate that permeates our society where we vilify the LBGTQ community. Enough of assuming that anyone with an Arabic name is foreign born or a terrorist. Enough of believing that ISIS is representative of all Muslim people. Enough of the demonization of immigrants coming to our country seeking a safe haven and a new start. Enough of groups of people being blamed or demonized for the actions of a few. Enough innocent lives lost.
This is a hate crime, above all else. It was birthed by the same culture of mistrust, misunderstanding, and hatred towards the LGBTQ community shown by North Carolina’s House Bill 2 (aka “the bathroom bill”) and the many laws passed like it. It was created by the states that refuse to recognize same gender marriages even after the highest court in the land ruled that it was a constitutional right. It was created by the 100+ anti-LGBTQ pieces of legislation proposed across 22 states that declare LGBTQ people are less than human. It was created by the reckless rhetoric of too many politicians seeking to make a headline or pandering to their perceived audience.
We write this as we remember the one year anniversary of the Charleston shooting at Mother Emmanuel. We write this as we approach the anniversary of the murders of James Earl Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman in Mississippi, for daring to work for voting rights for others. The horrible events at Pulse in Orlando are yet another manifestation of this lethal mixture of guns and hatred that has plagued those most vulnerable in our society for half a century.
We must do better. As we mourn those lives lost in Orlando, we must not let our mourning lead us to despair. Instead we should let it serve as a call to action and a call to solidarity. As people of faith, the Interfaith Council of Suburban Maryland, comes together focusing not on what divides us, but on what unites us. We affirm that we are all created by our Creator. As such, we all have value: all ethnicities, all sexual orientations and gender identities, all levels of ability, and all faiths. For this reason the Interfaith Council of Suburban Maryland chooses to stand with the LGBTQ community, the Muslim community, and the immigrant community. We choose to stand with each other, and with you. We, as a society, must learn to love and respect one another. Not despite our differences, but because of our differences. As such, we are working with elected and community leaders to create a communal event, coming together to honor the memories of the victims in Orlando, to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters here, to celebrate our diversity and our community, to do all that we can to be the change we hope to see in our world.
We leave you with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Choosing love means standing up against hatred and discrimination and standing up for life. We must continue to talk with one another to grow in our understanding of each other, so we can end the harm we pass on to other people. We, the Interfaith Council of Suburban Maryland, choose light. We choose love. We invite our entire to community to join with us.