Statement on terrorist attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand

The Board of Directors for the Catawba Valley Interfaith Council (CVIC) issued the following statement in response to the terrorist shootings at the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand last week:

It is tragic but true that we humans have a regrettable capacity for hate and violence. The ruthless killing of 50 and the injuring of so many others in New Zealand is the latest evidence. We in the leadership of the Catawba Valley Interfaith Council have had our hearts broken by this news. No words can express the sorrow we feel for the pain and loss suffered by so many as a result of this terrorist act. As hard as it is to do, it is worth stepping back and trying to understand both causes and cures for such violence toward innocent others. There seems to be consensus that an ideology stoked by fear is one of the root causes of this destructive dynamic. We fear what we do not know, what seems “foreign,” what we think is a threat to our own well-being. In our present-day American society, this tendency seems especially targeted toward those in the Muslim community, although persons of other races and religions are certainly not immune, such as those of African-American, Jewish, and Hispanic heritage. While the susceptibility to associated ideologies of hate can develop and be spread in a viral manner in this era of electronic social media, it is fortunate that we humans also have an extraordinarily strong capacity for love and compassion; this is the key to the antidote for such toxic views.

As we creatively consider ways to exercise our compassionate pro-social impulses, it is imperative to address the problem of violence at the macro level in terms of societal policies. But, perhaps equally critical is to focus on healing efforts closer to home in the context of our own families and community. What can we, each of us, do in our daily lives to reduce the tendency toward viewing those who are different from ourselves as so great a threat as to justify verbal and/or physical attack? There are no easy answers, and action can be uncomfortable. But for a start, we can try to understand and accept the truth that what we have in common is vastly greater than our differences. We are more likely to discover this if we talk with each other and really listen to each other in order to try to understand where our needs and interests overlap. Again, each of us has opportunities to do this. Let us therefore wake up and realize that the alternative is simply not acceptable in the long run if we humans are to survive and thrive on this single precious planet that we are so fortunate to inhabit together. Let us take responsibility and stand up for our true “in-group,” the entire human race.

The Board is sending the following message to members and friends of the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre:

Catawba Valley Interfaith Council upholds and supports you in your time of grief and sorrow. Our organization came into being a few years ago to help build trust and understanding among the many faith groups in the community and to foster love that unites and celebrates diversity. The hate motivated tragedy that you have experienced makes us more determined than ever to speak out and act in ways that bring people together for the good of all.

Your congregations have experienced much suffering and loss. We suffer with you because when any part of the human family experiences acts of violence and expressions of hate, everyone is less safe. As we dream and plan for a new tomorrow, it is important that we labor together to break down all that separates and work together to construct a climate where everyone feels secure and loved.

Catawba Valley Interfaith Council stands with the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre as you deal with everything such a terrible expression of hate has caused. It is our hope that as all of us move through the healing process, we may experience a brighter future for our faith communities and for our nations.

In your moment of grief and loss, please know that your friends and neighbors across the sea hold all of you in our hearts, in our thoughts, and in our prayers. We pledge to work tirelessly to foster understanding and peace between the adherents of all faiths and between the inhabitants of all lands.

Catawba Valley Interfaith Council
Board of Directors

Rabbi Dennis Jones (Jewish)
Rev. Donald P. Flick (Christian)
Robert Nehls (Christian)
John Esse, Ph.D. (Buddhist)
Julie Cline (Unitarian Universalist)
William Keener (Humanist)
Mindy Makant, Ph.D. (Christian)
Rev. Cliff Moone (Christian)
Rev. Nancy Stahl (Christian)
Michele Francois (Christian)
Barbara Laufer, Ph.D. (Jewish)
Rev. Patrick Campbell (Christian)
Rev. Jill Isola (Christian)
Rev. Jennifer Forrester (Christian)

Crying Kiwi 02

Cartoon of a crying kiwi, drawn by Invercargill cartoonist Shaun Yeo in response to the 50 people killed in the Christchurch mosque shootings of 15 March 2019. This cartoon was widely printed and shared in the aftermath of the attacks, and was described as “perfectly capturing this shocking and horrendous tragedy” (Source: Wikipedia – CC BY-SA 4.0)

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