My heart and thoughts are completely focused on the 50 Muslim men, women, and children who were senselessly murdered while worshiping at their Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand this past Friday. In addition, another 34 individuals were seriously injured, including a four-year-old girl! It is the worst terrorist attack in the history of New Zealand. It is hard for me to conceive how a human being could do this to other human beings.
Before the massacre, the attacker posted a 87-page manifesto that detailed his white supremacist beliefs. The actions of white supremacists is clearly a growing issue on a global basis, and we are witnessing the terrible impact this is having on African Americans, Jews, and immigrants of all nationalities. I believe we are all, and I mean ALL, called to stand up and denounce these actions and do everything we can to prevent these atrocities from happening in the future.
It is critical for all global leaders to openly respond to these tragedies. Pope Francis, at mass this morning in the Vatican, stated: “In these days, in addition to the pain of wars and conflicts that do not cease to afflict humanity, there have been the victims of the horrible attack against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. I pray for the dead and injured and their families. I am close to our Muslim brothers and all that community. I renew my invitation for prayer and gestures of peace to combat hatred and violence.”
I am hopeful that our U.S. leaders will respond in the same way. Many have, although I was disappointed by the response of President Trump when asked if he thought the issue of white supremacists posed a significant threat: “I think it is a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.”
They clearly have “very serious problems”, but it is not a “small group of people”. I found the following information in an NBC news report from earlier today:
“Between 2008 and 2016, far-right plots and attacks outnumbered Islamist incidents inspired by groups such as ISIS by almost 2 to 1, according to an independent database compiled by the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute.
The number of hate groups operating across America also rose to a record high of 1,020 in 2018, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The vast majority of those groups adhere to some form of white supremacist ideology, the center said, though they also include anti-LGBTQ and black nationalist groups, among others.
Since 2016, America has seen 11 people shot dead in a Pittsburgh synagogue; a protester mowed down by a white nationalist in Charlottesville, Virginia, and a coast guard officer prosecutors say was arrested before his violent white nationalist beliefs could lead him “to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country.”
So what are we called to do? Here are a few thoughts:
1) Pray for the victims and their families
2) Educate one another to understand the seriousness of the situation
3) Defend the rights of and respect every human being of all nations and religious beliefs
4) Be vigilant and report any behavior that, even though minor or small, could be a sign of a much bigger problem
5) Pray for our children and grandchildren