By Jack Calhoun
Members of Lewinsville Faith in Action responded to the shooting horrors in New Zealand by reaching out to three local Muslim congregations. Informed by faith and fact, Lewinsville Faith in Action (LFA), in partnership with others, works for political, social, economic and environmental policies that are based on justice and compassion. LFA’s letter to these congregations appears below. We grounded our response in theology, a continued pledge to alter our nation’s immigration and gun laws, and an open-arm invitation for dialogue, provision of assistance and for interfaith learning and respect.
What follows is the letter sent by Lewinsville Faith in Action to three local Muslim congregations.
To: The honored congregations at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, the McLean Islamic Center and the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center
From: Members of Lewinsville Faith in Action (www.LewinsvilleFaithInAction.org), Co-leaders Jack Calhoun and Cindy Speas
Lewinsville Faith in Action deplores yet another act of race-fueled, white-supremacy hatred, this one claiming the lives of 50 sacred souls at Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand.
We have had occasion to march with you, our Muslim brothers and sisters and to attend Friday prayer services. We stand deeply committed to protecting the civil and human rights of those of every – or no- religion, and to altering our nation’s immigration laws so they will welcome, not shun, the stranger, the refugee, the oppressed.
This heinous and cowardly attack, horribly evocative of the attacks on Tree of Life, Sutherland Springs, Mother Emmanuel and Oak Creek, defiled what should be the safest, the most sacrosanct of places – where we pray, where we worship, where we find strength to love God and our neighbor. These are places where we are sustained, not places where we cringe in fear.
We at Lewinsville Faith in Action pledge to continue advocating for laws on the local, state and national levels that would both protect minority communities and end the obscene availability of firearms, especially assault weapons.
We welcome the opportunity for dialogue, provision of assistance and for interfaith learning and respect. We open our arms to you as our worshipping community neighbor. We extend an open invitation to you to share your thoughts (and pain) with us at one of our monthly Lewinsville Faith in Action meeting here in Falls Church. We would also welcome any opportunity to meet with you, sharing our profound grief at the attacks on members of your worshipping community.
In sorrow and solidarity, and on behalf of Lewinsville Faith in Action,
Jack Calhoun and Cindy Speas, Co-Leaders, Lewinsville Faith in Action
In the wake of the tragedy, Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, set an inspiring and courageous moral tone for the world community. As reported in the Guardian (London), Ardern said, in part, “They are us…New Zealand had been chosen because it was safe, because it was no place for hatred or racism…we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, home for those who share our values, and refuge for those who need it.” Ardern sees and celebrates differences, differences that should be respected, enhanced and “connected with.” She buttressed her ringing moral statements with a pledge to reform the nation’s gun laws: “Within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism, we will have announced reforms that I believe will have made our community safer.” (New York Times, p. A8, 3/19/19).
Ardern’s summon to our better angels and resonant moral tone stand in stark contrast to Trump’s moral deafness — Trump, who often uses his, the world’s largest bully pulpit, to do the opposite — to bully not welcome, hurt not heal, divide not unite. He, as authoritarian leaders of recent and current history, if responding to an attack would play only his worn fear card, a strident warning against murderers, rapists, and terrorists, and a dark threat to Democrats and a chilling reminder that his support does not come from our democratic process, but, as he has proudly proclaimed, “I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump.”
Given this appalling, Trump-created moral vacuum each of us must fill that void, must carry and act on our deeply held moral and political beliefs. We can pray, write, act politically for or seek to welcome, not shun, the newcomer. Unfortunately, the moral beacon is not found in our leadership here. But the moral beacon exists — in New Zealand. And it exists in the hearts of millions of Americans who know that we are a nation founded on welcoming the stranger, the refugee, the seeker for freedom to worship, the hungry and the oppressed.
Thank you, New Zealand, for reminding us who we are, who we can and should be.
Jack Calhoun is the co-leader of Lewinsville Faith in Action.