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November 7, 2017
With communities of faith across the country, members of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence express anguish for the victims of the mass shooting in Las Vegas and grieve with their loved ones. Faiths United’s more than 50 endorsing organizations join millions of Americans in prayer and reflection over the almost constant violence our nation allows to be inflicted on our people, and are moved by that prayer to action. Faiths United issued the following statement.
On Wednesday, February 14, seventeen lives were taken from this Earth at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. We mourn this loss of life, and the transformation of a place of learning and community into a site of death and destruction. To the dead, the injured, and the hundreds of family members, friends, and communities that are grieving, we commit our prayers and our tireless action to prevent gun violence. The shooting in Parkland is the 30th mass shooting since the beginning of the year, six weeks ago. No other country in the world tolerates this level of deadly slaughter. Gun violence shames this country daily.
On behalf of our faith-based organizations and those we represent, we write today to urge you to oppose the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, H.R. 38, and the Constitutional Concealed Carry Act of 2017, S. 446. These pieces of legislation undermine the safety and wellbeing of our communities in a time when Americans face epidemic levels of gun violence. Every year, approximately 36,000 people die due to gun violence in the United States. Sadly, this senseless violence takes a particular toll on the most vulnerable among us, robbing individuals and communities of their inherent human dignity and their right to a safe, secure and just environment. From underserved communities of color to victims of domestic violence and their families – the most vulnerable in our nation are the most deeply affected by this tragic and preventable form of violence. As faith communities, we stand united in our opposition to concealed carry reciprocity legislation and urge Congress to focus on policies that will prevent gun violence and reduce the loss of innocent life.
Too many people in too many places are dying unnecessarily. We grieve with God in these deaths: those that did and did not make the news. Joining our voices with other concerned individuals, organizations and faith communities, we declare that enough is enough.
We call on the governments of the nations across North America to enact, practice and encourage life-affirming measures to resolve conflict and preserve the integrity of the lives of their residents. We call on elected leaders to show courage by legislating measures that will decrease gun violence as well as every other form of violence. We call on our governments to cease their participation in the profitable but deadly international arms trade. We lift our voices against the wars, declared and undeclared, that destroy both individuals and communities, and we call on our leaders to declare a ceasefire on all forms of violence.
We call on faith communities to proclaim, teach, advocate for and practice the principles of justice with peace as proclaimed in holy writings. In so doing, we as the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America will remain prayerfully committed and faithfully active in the work of realizing the realm of peace, which we believe is the vision of God for all creation, and look forward to the day when all will be called the children of God.
We share in the grief and horror of people across our country and, indeed, around the world in the wake of last night’s mass shooting in Las Vegas. We have spoken with our Bishops United Against Gun Violence colleague and brother in Christ, Bishop Dan Edwards of the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada, and we have offered him and the people of Nevada our prayers and promises of assistance. We stand in solidarity with the diocese and the people of Nevada as they cope with this massacre.
It has become clichéd at moments such as these to offer thoughts and prayers. But as Christians, we must reflect upon the mass killings that unfold with such regularity in our country. And we must pray: for the victims, for their loved ones, for all who attended to the victims in the immediacy of the shooting, for the first responders who do so much to mitigate the awful effects of these shootings, and for the medical personnel who will labor for many days to save the wounded. We must also enter into the sorrow of those who are most deeply affected by our country’s cripplingly frequent outbursts of lethal gun violence. We must look into our own hearts and examine the ways in which we are culpable or complicit in the gun violence that surrounds us every day.
The heart of our nation has been broken yet again by another mass shooting at an American school. We offer our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those who were murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. We mourn with particular sorrow Carmen Schentrup, a 16-year-old student at the school and leader in the youth group at St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs, who died at the hands of the gunman. We pledge to work with the Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida to lend whatever material and spiritual comfort we can to all those who have suffered such a devastating loss.
The phrase “thoughts and prayers” has been devalued by politicians whose prayers seem never to move them to act against their self-interests or the interests of the National Rifle Association. Yet, as Christians, we believe deeply in the power of prayer to console, to sustain and to heal, but also to make evident the work that God is calling us to do. We pray that all who have been touched by this violent act receive God’s healing and solace.
by Rev. Traci Blackmon
"The worst mass shooting in modern American history."
We’ve heard these words before. We’ve heard them far too often only to have the next mass shooting supersede the former. During the night, people attending an outdoor country music festival in Las Vegas unexpectedly found themselves assaulted by gunfire from the 32nd floor of the Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Early reports indicate this violence is the work of a lone, 64-year-old, white gunman equipped with multiple assault weapons. It is too early to know whether we will ever have knowledge of his provocation for this deadly act. It is too early to know what life experiences he may have had, or what propaganda he may have absorbed, that might have moved him from hateful thought to hateful action.
But what we do already know, even if we refuse to admit it, is that this lone gunman was able to execute at least 59 people, and wound over 500 more, because our nation’s absolute refusal to enact responsible gun legislation provides easy access to high-powered assault weapons used to kill human beings.
from Ken Sehested
A new edition of Ken Sehested's Signs of the Times has been posted with attention to Puerto Rico, kneeling athletes, Las Vegas, and St. Francis’ feast day.
The following is an article from the Philadelphia Daily News about the Heeding God's Call tee-shirt memorial at the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill. The memorial project placed 331 T-shirts on the lawn of the church to symbolize the city's 331 homicides in 2012. Guns were used in many of those cases. Heeding God's Call is a faith-based organization dedicated to ending gun violence. Several BPFNA Partner Congregations and members are a part of Heeding God's Call.
BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz partners, the Baptist Peacemakers of Rhode Island, participated in an interfaith memorial for victims of gun violence which included the blessing of a quilt made from clothing of five Rhode Islanders slain by guns. The service was intended as a memorial for those lost to gun violence and a consolation to their loved ones.
The Memorial Quilt was created as part of the Mothers’ Dream Quilt Project of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. It is being made available to members of the Rhode Island Religious Coalition for display in services of prayer and concern for gun violence. It will represent Rhode Island in the National Quilt Exhibit and go on tour with quilts from every state.
from the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship offers a free "Gun Violence Prevention Toolkit" to help your congregation turn toward action against gun violence. Revised in 2017, the toolkit offers a wealth of educational resources for small or large groups, including films to screen in your church or community, case studies, worship design, and ideas for starting the conversation.
from Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, the United Methodist Church
The United States is once again grappling with another mass shooting. And again, in a place of worship.
We lift up to God those who have died and those who have lost family members at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, TX. May they be enveloped in God’s comforting peace and healing now and in the days to come.
This violence continues to desecrate churches, neighborhoods, schools, concerts, movie theaters, and clubs. Our communities are being ripped apart by gun violence.
As heartsick as this makes us, we cannot and must not throw up our hands in defeat. To do nothing to combat the evils of gun violence is irresponsible and contradictory to Christ’s call to be peacemakers.
from the Newtown Foundation, Faiths United Against Gun Violence, and more
The victims, survivors and the families impacted by gun violence are often forgotten. Therefore, the Newtown Foundation, in partnership with Faiths United Against Gun Violence and others, will host the annual national vigil service of mourning and loving remembrance for all who have fallen victim to the ongoing epidemic of gun violence in America on December 6th and nationwide vigils/events from December 6-17th.
Click here to learn more about the national event and/or on planning a vigil in your community.
from BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz
Use this tool to support your place of worship in creating a faithful and effective ministry on the issue of gun violence, answering questions members may have on the issue and providing resources and contacts for seeking additional information.
Under the Gun examines the events and people who have kept the gun debate fierce and the progress slow, even as gun deaths and mass shootings continue to increase. Through the lens of families impacted by the mass shootings in Newtown, Aurora, Isla Vista and Tucson, as well as those who experience daily gun violence in Chicago, the documentary looks at why politicians are finding it difficult to act and what is being done at the state and local levels. The film is executive produced and narrated by Katie Couric and directed by Stephanie Soechtig.
On a recent Facebook conversation, a friend of a friend asked, “I see references to common sense gun legislation. What would that look like?” He seemed sincere and genuinely interested in the answer.
In the hope of answering his question, we offer this list. It is not meant to be comprehensive, but we do hope it offers some vision for concrete steps that would move us away from the current cycle of endless violence, trauma, injury and death we are now experiencing on a daily basis.
Most of these are aspirational. In all likelihood, they are not going to be enacted by Congress in the current political situation, and perhaps not for decades to come. Still, the very least we can do is to figure out what we hope for – and then live and work inside that hope.
from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference
Leader: A sound is heard in Ramah, the sound of bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children. She refuses to be comforted, for they are dead.
Assembly: We pray for the families of the victims who have been slain by gun violence.
Leader: A sound is heard in every city. Communities are weeping generationally for their elders, children and loved ones. Our sons, like Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin. Our brothers, like Ezell Ford, Michael Brown and John Crawford. Our daughters, like Ayanna Jones, Miriam Carey. Our sisters, like Malisa Williams and Tarika Wilson.
Assembly: As people of God, we weep for the lives of all of God’s children who, instead of enjoying the sweetness of innocence become victims of hate, victims of war, and victims of violence.
Leader: Now, let us rise up and interrupt these rushing waters of violence that leave children and communities wounded and paralyzed, traumatized by internal disintegration and state terror. Let us rise up and demand this nation abandon its affair with beliefs, practices and laws that are rooted in militarism.
from Rabbi Rachel Barenblat and Rabbi David Evan Markus
I loved and grieved from the day you claimed your free will,
Knowing that you too would open into infinite love and grief,
Knowing how your hearts would bloom with gratitude and hope
With every child’s every first, and lament every child’s every last,
As I do and always will with My children’s every first and every last
In the raw and wild cosmic dance we began together in the garden.
What else could I do? You must become what you must become,
Like Me infinitely becoming, infinitely capable of love and grief,
So I clothed your shimmering lights in skins and hid in plain sight
For you to seek and find Me amidst life’s sweetness and sorrow.
How fast your lights flickered underneath: your second son’s blood
Cried out to Me from the ground, too soon returning earth to earth.