Chicago faith communities reached out in solidarity to the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC) and the Muslim community after 50 Muslim worshipers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand were killed in a terrorist attack last week. Below are letters of support from our interfaith partners:
TO THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY OF CHICAGOLAND,
With deep sadness, I wish to communicate to you to prayers and concern of the Archdiocese of Chicago over the murders of your co-religionists in Christchurch, New Zealand. Cardinal Blase Cupich has issued a statement condemning these attacks. You will find it appended to this letter.
I am conscious of the fact that as I am writing this letter, many Muslims are gathered at the
mosque for Jummah, the Friday prayer. For your Christian brothers and sisters, it is all the more
painful that the attacks occurred in a city named for Jesus, who taught his disciples “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’
But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever
insults his brother shall be liable . . .” (Matthew 5:21-22) “In this teaching, Jesus calls his followers to examine their hearts, especially the attitudes they hold that beget their actions. Only by rooting out attitudes of hate can humankind live in solidarity.”
Years ago, Pope Saint John Paul II issued a “Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2003.” The Holy Father wrote:
Often, solidarity does not come easily. It requires training and a turning away from attitudes of closure, which in many societies today have become more subtle and penetrating. To deal with this phenomenon, the Church possesses vast educational and formative resources at all levels. I therefore appeal to parents and teachers to combat racism and xenophobia by inculcating positive attitudes based on Catholic social doctrine. (Oct. 24, 2002) John Paul II went on to say that we must “struggle to overcome any tendency to turn in on [ourselves] and learn to discern in people of other cultures the handiwork of God.” Only in this way, the Holy Father says, can we move “beyond tolerance of others to real respect for their differences.”
If we do this, the fruit will be altruism, openness, and solidarity. If we do not, we will be poisoned by egoism, fear, and rejection. Tolerance is not enough. We must struggle for solidarity.
Thomas A. Baima
Very Rev. Thomas A. Baima, Vicar
Statement of Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, archbishop of
Chicago, on New Zealand Mosques Attacks
March 15, 2019
We learned today of yet another terrorist attack on a place of worship, this time at two mosques in New Zealand. I stand with all people of good will in condemning these senseless acts of violence against Muslims, many of whom were immigrants and refugees. Joining Pope Francis, I assure our Muslim brothers and sisters, particularly those in New Zealand, of our prayers to the one, all-Merciful God for healing and comfort.
We know that the root of these acts is hatred, fear and ignorance of the “other,” which fuels attitudes that dehumanize whole communities and blame them for perceived ills in society. These fears are irrational, but they can produce horrific consequences. The murders in Christchurch, New Zealand, are only the most recent reminder of this global scourge.
At the same time, we in the United States must recognize that we carry a special burden. When we, as a nation, tolerate racism or Islamophobia, or employ it in political rhetoric or in our daily lives, a poison is released which is difficult to contain. The public nature of this horrific act, and similar crimes here and elsewhere in the world, was startling and speaks to the intent of the perpetrators. They wanted to sow hatred and do so publicly.
Let this horrific affront to decency be a call to action by all people who cherish our common humanity. Religious, civil and political leaders have a responsibility not only to condemn these criminal acts, but to hold each other accountable for combatting the attitudes which breed them. Let us recommit ourselves to this task today, welcoming one another as “brother” or “sister” whenever we encounter them.
With a heavy heart, I call upon all of the parishes of the Archdiocese of Chicago to offer prayers for those who died in New Zealand and for their Muslim neighbors here in Cook and Lake counties. Also, in all hope and humility let us pray for the perpetrators of this violence and those who harbor hate toward others based on race or religion. May they come to see the humanity in their brothers and sisters and release the hatred.
Islamic Foundation, Villa Park 3/17/19
I am glad to be here with you. It brings me strength, comfort and peace to be united with you my brothers and sisters, all of us children of God. And I find great hope in the fact that there are gatherings like this happening all over the world.
It is our sacred duty to be here for one another at times like this. A scripture in the Book of Mormon describes that duty. It says that if we want to be included within the fold of God, we must be “willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light….and mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand a witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places…” (Mosiah 18:8-9)
I have been really angry. It is impossible for me to comprehend how a person could murder innocent children, women and men of all ages, young and old, as they kneel in prayer! And live stream it! And write a perverse “manifesto” attempting to justify such atrocities! Such evil is beyond words to adequately condemn.
Such brutality, bigotry, racism and blind hatred against Muslims as they worship is an assault against all of humanity and shreds the fabric of civilized society. All of us are wounded by this, and all of us must rise up to combat it.
Tragically, the New Zealand attacks against Muslims in prayer are not isolated incidents, but the vile continuation of a despicable pattern of repulsive racism, bigotry and irrational fear. Think of the Jews at prayer in the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood Pittsburgh. Think of the Black Christians at prayer at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Who will be next? If this pattern is to stop, good people such as assembled here and at similar gatherings around the world are the ones who will stop it. And we can stop it.
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we treasure a scripture which states: “Verily I say, men [and women] should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; for the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves.” (D&C 58:27-28)
There is power within us that can stop this ignorant bigotry and racism. This power includes the power of our influence and example, the way we live our lives. What can we do? We have the power to:
Be bold in speaking against bigotry
Not remain silent in the presence of racism. Not tolerate racist, bigoted, homophobic jokes or comments. Insist upon equality and respect for all faiths and traditions. Extend a hand of fellowship to people who look different from you. Respect one another, no exceptions. Show kindness to all, no exceptions. Look for the common ground that unites us, not the differences that may separate us. Smile, communicate, break bread together – be friends.
These may seem to be small things of limited impact, but they can become a blessing in our sphere of influence, they can bring light and peace to displace the darkness and violence within our circle of contacts.
Collectively such small acts add up to the great commandment:
That we Love one another, as God loves us. No Exceptions.
We do this because we know, as I said before, we all are brothers and sisters, children of one God. As expressed in our church’s official statement in response to the New Zealand shootings:
“In response to yesterday’s mass shootings in two Christchurch mosques, the Pacific Area Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today issued the following statement of love and support:
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of so many lives as a result of yesterday’s senseless attacks in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Our prayers are with the families of the deceased, the injured, and all others impacted by this tragedy. We also pray for all New Zealanders and our Muslim brothers and sisters throughout the world.”
We mean that literally and sincerely – we are brothers and sisters, standing together, working to dispel darkness, reject violence, neutralize hatred, and replace them with light, peace and love.
Let it begin within us, let us do our part to heal the world. In the spirit of the Jewish principle of Tikkun Olam.
That we may do so is my prayer, which I offer in the name of the Creator of Heaven and Earth. Amen
Latter Day Saints Church
Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago
Together with you, we were horrified to learn of the terrorist attacks on two Christchurch mosques earlier today. We mourn with you the murder of 49 Muslim worshippers. Please accept our deepest condolences for the families of those killed and our prayers for the speedy recovery of the wounded. May the memories of the victims be for a blessing. May their families find comfort among the Muslim community worldwide and support from the global human family.
Tragically, attacks on houses of worship are nothing new. Hating the other is an all-too-common sin. We are anxious to stand with you and the Muslim community in solidarity in ways that you and your community feel most appropriate. Whether it’s participating in vigils in memory of those killed or injured in New Zealand, joining in public statements against hate and terror, participating in relief efforts, or joining in and lending expertise to discussions about security at places of worship or other communal institutions, please let us know how or if we can help.
We say this loudly: there’s no place in the world for this kind of hate. In the great tradition of the three monotheistic faiths, we continue to teach that all are created in God’s image. We live the Torah’s teaching, “You shall not hate your fellow in your heart,” but shall “love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Leviticus: 19)
We pray that our Peoples will not experience further bloodshed.
Bill Silverstein, Chair, JCRC
Daniel Goldwin, Executive Director, JUF Public Affairs
Rabbi Michael Balinsky, Executive Vice President, Chicago Board of Rabbis
Dearest Muslim and Arab friends, allies and partners,
With deep sadness, I am writing on behalf of Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago to express that our hearts are broken in the wake of last night’s horrific attacks in New Zealand.
We are here for you, and hope you will let us know what support you need so that we can do everything in our power to follow through. Please let us know if you are holding any mourning or commemorative events that we can support.
With sadness and solidarity on behalf of our members and staff,
Ari Belathar, Chicago Organizer
Lesley Williams, JVP-Chicago Coordinating Committee
Michael Deheeger, Congressional Organizer
Photo: AFP / Flowers laid outside Al Noor Mosque.