In the last 48 hours the city of Dallas has reeled with grief. Grief felt for victims of police violence against African Americans. And grief felt for the 5 police officers assassinated by a gunman, and 7 others wounded while they were protecting the right of the people to peaceable assembly.
The sun had barely risen on our stricken city when a large gathering of religious leaders from all of the different communities in Dallas came at the invitation of Mayor Rawlings to Thanksgiving Square for prayers and memorials. Police Chief Brown was there, political leaders where there, as were thousands of others of all races and religions dedicated to healing the wounds of the city.
The prayer service was the culmination of the hope that Thanksgiving Square would be the bright heart of a city dedicated to the welfare of all its citizens and their mutual gratitude for the bounty bestowed on them.
It was a moment was built on the foundation of the work of Thanksgiving Square for last many decades, and particularly its Interreligious Council and the Faith Forward Dallas initiative led by Dr. Michael Waters and Dr. Joe Clifford.
For the last year Faith Forward has been building relationships between faith leaders across Dallas and with the Mayor Rawlings and City Hall. Indeed, in the months prior to the tragedy the Faith Forward Dallas initiative had been actively engaged in prayer and remembrance for victims of racism and its attendant violence – precisely so that the people of Dallas could see themselves as a people with a conscience, a people with a heart for humanity.
Thanksgiving Square was not only place in Dallas where citizens of different religions gathered to pray for our police and our citizens and the duties that they owe one another. Perkins School of Theology, many of whose students and professors were at the downtown rally where the attack against the police happened, held a prayer vigil. The Episcopal Diocese of Dallas held a Requiem mass. Indeed the number of services held in churches, mosques, synagogue, and temples and gurdwaras are too numerous to mention.
All across the city people gathered to make their voices heard by their fellow citizens, by those who grieved, and by God.
Thanksgiving Square simply brought all those pieces together into a single place at a single time – reminding us of what Dallas is and Dallas can become.
As a citizen of Dallas, born here and raised here, I believe that in the dawn after the dark night of July 7th I can see a turning point, a change in our city. When members and leaders of all of our diverse religious and ethnic communities join together in common grief, in common hope, for the common good a bright heart beats in the City of Dallas. May it keep beating.