In an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education today, Eboo Patel says: “An interfaith leader is someone with the vision, knowledge base, and skill set to create the spaces, organize the social processes, and craft the conversations such that people of different religions can share a common life together.” While the essay doesn’t talk about the horrific events in Orlando this weekend, it’s easy to see how and why the vision, knowledge, and skills to bring together people of different religions is more important with every passing week.
Here, then, is how an interfaith leader can and should respond to the Pulse Massacre:
- Anger. Because over a hundred young vibrant people were killed or injured by a deranged gunman. As Audre Lorde said, “Anger is loaded with information and energy.”
- Silence. Because nothing that can be said is enough, is appropriate, or is right. (“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but the prudent are restrained in speech.” Proverbs 10:19)
- Prayer, if so inclined. Any language, any tradition. Find an interfaith vigil in your community. Google it, they’re everywhere. Better yet, organize one.
- Anger again, because the deranged gunman had no problem getting an AR-15 in a country that has decided gun-makers have more right to their profits than kindergarteners in school and young adults in a gay nightclub. (“Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold [doves].” Matthew 21:12-13. Imagine what happens if we change “doves” to “guns,” because that is in fact the contemporary idol to whom all is being sacrificed.)
- Correct misinformation. Because too many people will use the fact of the deranged gunman’s name, Omar, and his Afghani parentage, to reinforce their entrenched and preexisting Islamophobia. Including a presidential candidate. The gunman was “not religious” according to family members. Muslim organizations around the country condemn this action. He was also disposed to gender-based violence, and massacring fifty people in a gay nightclub counts as gender-based violence.
- Employ skills of patience. Because somehow people will still assert that “guns don’t kill people.” What, then, you may calmly ask, did kill those young people? (In Sanskrit, the word “sahana” means patience, endurance, forbearance.)
- Tell this country’s interfaith history. Rev. Dr. King marched for civil rights with Rabbi Heschel, Jane Addams welcomed Catholics and Jews to Hull House because they were immigrants in need, Thomas Jefferson read the Quran because he wanted to learn for himself about these people everyone vilified but no one knew much about.
- Employ skills of communication. Speak to your neighbor, write to your elected official. Write a blog post, an op-ed, a story, wherever you are able. (“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” Job 7:11).
- Read carefully, discerningly. Because alarmist and honest analysis of the event will flood the news media. You will need to be able to tell the difference.
- (for nonMuslims) Show up to support your Muslim neighbors. Because as alarmed and angry as you might feel, they are terrified. Pray with them, defend them, listen to them.
- (for heterosexual & cisgendered people) Show up to support your gay, lesbian, and transgendered neighbors. They are under attack. Listen to them, see them, love them. Familiarize yourself and them with the many religious traditions (Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Humanist, Muslim, Jewish) that affirm and welcome gay and lesbian people.
- Hold on to the vision. Some say that “love conquers hate,” that the arc of the moral universe is bends toward justice, but it’s hard to see that now. Try to live as if that is true, since nearly every religious tradition tells us it is. Remember that. You’ll need it. (“Indeed, Allah enjoins justice and kindness, and the doing of good to others; and giving to kin.” Quran 16:90.)