On October 27, eleven lives were lost during a shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. We mourn this loss of life and grieve as another house of worship is added to the growing list of places that have been instantly transformed from a community hub into a memorial of those who died at the hands of gun violence.
This attack is another gruesome example of violent assault taking place within a house of worship. Within the past few years we’ve seen acts of hatred like these get carried out with ruthless efficiency thanks to the aid of firearms. We are reminded of the massacres at places like the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church in Texas, the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, and the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Now we must add the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA to this list. This alarming increase in violence has meant that these places of worship, the very places where people are supposed to offer their thoughts and prayers to other victims, are no longer the safe havens they were designed to be.
The Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence coalition (FUPGV) firmly stands in solidarity with our Jewish friends and neighbors. In times like these we are reminded of our scriptures and holy teachings that everyone is a child of God, and that we must treat our neighbors with love. Now more than ever we must build bridges across our differences and seek to root out hatred wherever it is. Healthy and strong communities are only created when we reach out to those who are different than us.
It is with a heavy heart that we find ourselves offering our thoughts and prayers in the wake of another horrific tragedy. Yet again we find ourselves praying with those whose families lost loved ones too soon. However, our thoughts and prayers are no longer enough. People of faith are not here solely to offer prayers in the aftermath of a tragedy. Our faiths call us to take action that heals our society. If there was ever a time for the faith community to become involved in the issue of gun violence prevention, this is it.
FUPGV, a group of 50 national faith organizations, denominations, and groups committed to preventing gun violence, calls upon Congress to uphold their moral obligations and take action to prevent deaths like those at the Tree of Life synagogue. For too long Congress has shirked its duties and refused to act. We believe that Congress must reintroduce the assault weapons ban. It is clear that acts of violence and attacks like those committed at houses of worship are only exacerbated by military style assault weapons that are accessible to the average person. Weapons of war do not belong in our communities or houses of worship.
Not only do we urge Congress to take action to ban assault weapons, we call upon all faith communities to join us and engage in this work. Faith communities must do more than offer words of solace in the aftermath of a tragedy. People of faith must be present in developing solutions to gun violence and engaged in preventing further acts of violence from happening in the future.