On Oct. 27, a man opened fire in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa., killing 11 people. A few days earlier, after attempting to break into a church to attack worshipers, a man shot and killed two African Americans in a grocery store in Jeffersontown, Ky. In the shadow of these events, the Christian Reformed Church in North America has released the following statement
In the wake of the tragic and horrific mass shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on October 27, 2018, and in the shadow of what might have been a mass shooting at First Baptist Church in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, we mourn.
We mourn the wanton destruction of life through weapons and violence. We mourn the assault, and threats of assault, on people of faith gathered in places of worship. We mourn the rising rates of anti-Semitic attitudes and actions, the increase of hate crimes in our communities, and in particular the persecution of people on the basis of their religious beliefs. We mourn that fear is on the rise, because everyone’s safety is threatened through actions like these.
As Christians, we believe that all people bear the image of God. It is because of this deep commitment to the sacredness of each human life that we say loudly and boldly that all lives -- Jewish, refugee, Muslim, immigrant, African American -- have immeasurable value. Any act of hate or violence, any attitude of xenophobia or bigotry, any words of exclusion or racism stand in contrast to our deepest beliefs.
Consider these words from the contemporary testimony Our World Belongs to God: “We call on all governments . . . to protect the rights and freedoms of individuals, groups, and institutions . . . to bring justice to the poor and oppressed, and to promote the freedom to speak, work, worship, and associate. . . . Followers of the Prince of Peace are called to be peacemakers, promoting harmony and order and restoring what is broken. . . . We pledge to walk in ways of peace, confessing that our world belongs to God; he is our sure defense” (para. 53-54).
With this pledge in mind, we commit to following the calling of Christ to reconcile -- especially with our enemies. We commit to praying for the gunmen. We commit to praying for all who find affiliation in circles that espouse fear and isolation, who find fascination and temptation in the sins of nationalism, anti-Semitism, racism, apartheid, and hate.
We lament that these attitudes are in our own churches. We call on pastors to have brave conversations in their congregations with members who struggle with fear of the other.
We call on church members to follow the calling of Christ to break down walls of hostility -- whether based on political affiliation, religious faith, or ethnic background -- by reaching out in meaningful friendship toward people who are different from them.
We resolve to ensure that the CRCNA works ever more diligently toward interfaith friendships, antiracist relationships, and the cultivation of peace and justice in each of our communities.
Dr. Steven Timmermans, executive director, CRCNA
Colin Watson Sr., director of ministries and administration, CRCNA
Carol Bremer-Bennett, U.S. director, World Renew
Ida Kaastra Mutoigo, Canadian director, World Renew
Reggie Smith, director, Office of Race Relations & Office of Social Justice
Darren Roorda, Canadian ministries director, CRCNA
Mike Hogeterp, director, Centre for Public Dialogue
For additional reading, please see the following statements made by some of our partners in ministry: