Violence

Why I Prayed With the Sikh Community Last Night

PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/GettyImages

Indian Sikhs place flower petals and candles near pictures of those killed on Sunday. PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP/GettyImages

I wasn’t sure what to expect as we pulled into the parking lot of a local Sikh temple — or gurudwara— last night, but I assumed it would be culturally enlightening and offer a glimpse into a worldview and religious tradition I have only sparingly engaged. While yesterday was the National Day of Remembrance and Solidarity for the victims and mourners of the shooting in Wisconsin, I felt deeply compelled to stand with them in their pain as a follower of the Prince of Peace. 

Walking into the gurudwara's courtyard holding my two-year-old daughter’s hand, my wife and two friends were immediately greeted by the priest with a handshake and smile. He thanked us for coming and invited us into the experience that included a short service in the gurudwara and vigil outside to remember the six worshipers who were shot by a man that had never met them. I can only speculate, but if this man would have engaged these people on a relational level at any point, he certainly would have reconsidered his actions.  

Much like the response of the Amish after the horrific schoolhouse massacre in 2006, the Sikh community has intentionally chosen to respond to by offering radical love and forgiveness. Although somber, they carried a deep conviction to embrace the way of peace as retaliation for the death of these innocent victims.  

Syria: Medical Supplies Critically Low

From The Los Angeles Times:

Escalating violence in Syria has shut down pharmaceutical plants, piling another worry onto the woes facing the Syrian people: Severe shortages of medicine.

The World Health Organization warned Tuesday that growing clashes between forces loyal to President Bashar Assad and opposition fighters around the cities of Damascus, the capital, and Aleppo have damaged and closed many of the local plants that make the vast majority of medicines. The country produces most of its own pharmaceuticals.

Drugs to treat tuberculosis, hepatitis, diabetes and other maladies are urgently needed, along with chemical reagents to screen blood before it can be used for infusions for trauma and surgery patients, according to reports received by the United Nations agency.

Learn more here

Sikh Calls for Peace Echo Amish Shooting Response

Amish boy (left) and Sikh boy (right).

Amish boy (left) and Sikh boy (right).

Like most people, I was deeply troubled by news of another mass shooting, this time at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., not far from Milwaukee. On the heels of the tragic massacre in Aurora, Colo., this seemed all the more savage to me, given that it took place in a house of worship.

Maybe it’s because my wife and I work in a church and are aware of such vulnerabilities every day, but my first reaction is defensiveness. I want to raise my guard, double-check the locks and do whatever I can to ensure our safety. It’s the response that makes the most sense, after all.

Or is it?

Wisconsin Shooting, A Culture of Violence, and Why Prayer is Not Enough

The Overpass Light Brigade at the prayer vigil in Milwaukee. Courtesy Steve Jerb

The Overpass Light Brigade at the prayer vigil in Milwaukee. Courtesy Steve Jerbi

I heard about the shooting at the Sikh temple in the middle of leading worship. It was the same space where two months ago we buried a child killed by gun violence. It was the same space where two weeks ago we prayed for the community of Aurora. And now we were gathered again and like the family of an addict we were left with the pain of a destructive lifestyle.

We wept. We prayed. We sang.

I stood up and said, “We have prayed. And there is power in prayer. Change can happen with prayers. And we pray for brothers and sisters who worship a different God than ours and yet we call them our family. We pray for the shooter because we are taught to pray for our enemies. But prayer is not enough."

Prayers for Peace Offered to Victims of Wisconsin Shooting

Since Sunday's terrible shooting at a Sikh temple outside of Milwaukee, Wis., faith communities have been extending their support, thoughts, and prayers to the faith community. 

As Christians, we are called to be a voice for peace and nonviolence — to stand against a culture of violence that has allowed for two such hateful acts in three weeks. We at Sojourners extend our deepest sympathis, our prayers lifted high, for all of those affected by the senseless tragedy. 

Lamb of God, 
you take away the sins of the world. 
Have mercy on us. 
Grant us peace.

For the unbearable toil of our sinful world, 
we plead for remission.
For the terror of absence from our beloved, 
we plead for your comfort.
For the scandalous presence of death in your creation, 
we plead for resurrection.

Lamb of God, 
you take away the sins of the world.
Have mercy on us. 
Grant us peace.
Come, Holy Spirit, and heal all that is broken in our lives, in our streets, and in our world. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

— from Common Prayer

Please comment here to add your thoughts and prayers. 

The Weight

Does anybody else feel this weight?

I woke up this morning in tears. I don’t know why today is different, but I do know the weight is for my brothers and sisters who are in pain.

I imagined what the night was like for folks in my neighborhood who had to fend off threats last night.

I imagine the young girl in a car — against her will or against her first choice — with the guy named John, and I lament for her soul.

I imagine the young guy standing out all night selling death so he can have a little life — whether it’s in the form of food, dignity or just to feel like he is meeting some need, somehow.

I imagine the mom lying in the bed next to someone she would rather not touch, but because he pays the bills for her kids to eat and sleep, she puts up with his abuse and doesn’t say anything about the other woman he also lies with around the corner.

Mary Magdalene, the Massacre in Our Town, and Defiant Alleluias

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

itia Stillwell and Lori Meade embrace and pray with thousands of others during a prayer vigil. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

As a woman preacher, I can’t help but love St. Mary Magdalene.  She was the first witness to the resurrection. When I first discerned my call to be a preacher I got a tattoo of her on my forearm – it’s from a rare depiction in ancient Christian art – of her proclaiming the resurrection to the apostles. I felt that when I needed to, I could borrow her strength. And since July 22 is her feast day, we decided weeks ago to ditch the normal Sunday readings and celebrate her as an important saint to us.

But then Friday happened. I was still in New Orleans when I saw the news of the shooting. After praying that you were all safe I soon thought, “we can’t really hold a celebration of a saint today … it just wouldn’t make any sense.”

I had gone to New Orleans with an idea for a sermon on Mary Magdalene – a sermon about who gets to speak in the Bible and who gets to be named and blah, blah, blah.

And just as I was about to ditch it all and go with the regularly assigned reading for today, I went back and again read this story of Mary Magdalene at the tomb and realized, given the violence and terror thrust upon our community this week, that maybe Mary had more to say about it than I could. I decided again to borrow strength and voice from her. So were I a pastor who titled her sermons, this one would be WWMMP – "What Would Mary Magdalen Preach?"

Is Gun Control a Religious Issue?

Religion and gun photo,  sagasan / Shutterstock.com

Religion and gun photo, sagasan / Shutterstock.com

Of all the controversies that have followed in the bloody wake of the July 20 shooting rampage in Aurora, Colo., few have provided such a clarifying insight into the moral tensions and contradictions in American culture than the argument over whether gun control is a religious issue.

The Rev. James Martin, a popular author and Jesuit priest, was among the first to set out the terms of the debate, when he penned a column at America magazine arguing that gun control “is as much of a ‘life issue’ or a ‘pro-life issue’ … as is abortion, euthanasia, or the death penalty (all of which I am against), and programs that provide the poor with the same access to basic human needs as the wealthy.”

Martin’s central point was that abortion opponents spare no effort to try to shut down abortion clinics or to change laws to limit or ban abortions, so clearly believers should be committed to taking practical steps to restrict access to guns.

“Simply praying, ‘God, never let this happen again’ is insufficient for the person who believes that God gave us the intelligence to bring about lasting change,” Martin wrote. “It would be as if one passed a homeless person and said to oneself, ‘God, please help that poor man,’ when all along you could have helped him yourself.”

Faith Amid the Rising Conflict in Eastern Congo

Photo by Fidel Bafilemba of Enough Project.

Spokesperson for M23, Bishop Jean Marie Runiga, gives press conference. Bunagana, DR Congo. Fidel Bafilemba of Enough Project.

Faith, for many in eastern Congo, is a source of hope in an environment where optimism is often in short supply. Many Congolese consider faith communities to be among the few trusted institutions in a society (and a government) rife with corruption.

As the situation in eastern Congo has markedly worsened in recent weeks, the church and faith communities have been at the center of efforts to end violence and create space for peace.  

Violence has rapidly escalated in eastern Congo since a new rebel movement known as M23 emerged in April. M23 is composed of several hundred Congolese soldiers, loyal to the former Rwandan backed rebel movement — the CNDP — who were subsumed into the Congolese army in 2009 as part of an opaque peace agreement between the rebels and the governments of Congo and Rwanda.

Lord Have Mercy: A Prayer for Colorado

People pray for victims of the Aurora shooting during a Mitt Romney rally in New Hampshire Friday.Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty

Loving God,

Darkness has covered our nation and thick darkness has descended upon our people. Tragedy has clouded out the light. Shots rang out in Aurora, Colorado. Some people were wounded by gas and bullets. Others were murdered.

In this time of darkness may your resilient light shine forth.

May your light shine on the family and friends of the 12 people who were killed during this senseless crime. There's no way to explain the darkness that indiscriminately murders children, women, and men. They were each someone's son, daughter, mother, or father — and nobody can fully understand the immense grief and righteous anger of their loved ones. They need your light, Loving God. Please pour it forth....

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