I am writing on behalf of the Lancaster Interfaith Coalition to publicly express our solidarity with the Jewish community in Lancaster and throughout our nation, and especially in Pittsburgh.
We are a coalition of Christian, Muslim, Unitarian Universalist and Jewish leaders who have come together to speak to the soul of our nation at this time of national tragedy. We include faith leaders from Presbyterian (USA), Episcopal, United Church of Christ and Unitarian Universalist congregations, as well as from the Islamic Community Center, Reform Judaism, Elizabethtown College and Franklin & Marshall College.
Established in 2015, our organization seeks to move beyond tolerance to the affirmation and understanding of different religious expressions living side by side. We seek the peace that was shattered by the senseless violence Saturday at Tree of Life Congregation, a synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh.
First, we stand in solidarity with the families who mourn the loss of their 11 loved ones who were doing nothing more than worshipping the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — the same God that is honored by all three Abrahamic faiths (Muslim, Christian and Jewish).
To those families we say: Your loss prompts tears every time we pray, privately or publicly. And we pray the deaths of those you love will remind us all of how fragile life is and how much we must learn the power of loving and caring for each other in ways that affirm love over hate, peace over violence.
Second, we wish to express our absolute rejection of the anti-Semitism expressed by the person who terrorized the Pittsburgh community. Moreover, we reject any expression of attitudes — including racism, sexism and other forms of intolerance — that demean other human beings.
We reject all forms of hatred that would erect barriers to understanding of, and compassion for, our neighbors. We believe it is long overdue that ordinary citizens like ourselves become part of building the community we want. We abhor having our desires for peaceful communities hijacked by partisan politics, callous rhetoric and senseless acts of violence.
Third, we strongly believe this is a time for us to come together as Americans. We are a nation of people who have firmly held religious beliefs, but we affirm that we must listen to one another if we are to discover the fullness of God as well as God’s desire for peace on this earth. We affirm that our differences do not diminish God’s power. Rather, when we truly make efforts to listen to one another, we enrich our understanding of who God is and what God requires of us to live in the 21st century.
Finally, we invite you to join us on Lancaster’s Penn Square for a prayer vigil for our country at 6 p.m. Monday.
Prayers from many different religions will be offered without speeches or political rhetoric. We wish to emphasize that this is neither a partisan rally nor a sectarian gathering. It is a public opportunity for all people in Lancaster County to come and pray together for the soul of America.
The Rev. Dr. Randolph T. Riggs is president of the Lancaster Interfaith Coalition.