June 7, 2019

Faith Leaders Unite Against Hate in Wake of Mass Shootings

The American Jewish Committee launched the ‘Community of Conscience’ Sunday at its annual global forum

WASHINGTON — As Virginia Beach mourns the loss of 12 in yet another mass shooting, faith leaders from different denominations united as a ‘Community of Conscience’ at the American Jewish Committee’s annual global forum Sunday.

“I don’t know how to solve situations like Virginia Beach,” said Anne Golightly, Public Affairs Director for the Greater Washington, D.C. area for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. “It’s so mind-boggling beyond belief that people would turn to that type of behavior, but I do think we have to start somewhere.”

The newest start for the AJC is by uniting faith leaders — local and from across the country — in the ‘Community of Conscience.’

“At this moment in time, there are those forces that want to divide us and separate us, and we want to resist those forces,” said David Harris, CEO of the AJC. “We want to say that our ideal is democracy. It’s pluralism. It’s mutual respect.”

Leaders like D.C.’s newest Archbishop Wilton Gregory, and Rabbi Jeffrey Myers from Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue are standing together to say they’re going to promote love through action, regardless of a difference in faith, opinion, or otherwise. Myers lost 11 of his parishioners to hate (a word he’s stopped using).

“I would hope that we can take this common thought and thread that runs through all of us, and come up with what are appropriate actions that we can take?” said Rabbi Myers.

He and his fellow faith leaders say that common thought is important to remember.

Religion is one of the most polarizing topics, and here religious leaders, strong in their convictions, say a basic human principle transcends any disagreement they may have about their beliefs.

“Almost every faith or non-faith believes in the golden rule, and that’s kind of fundamental. Whether you’re faith-based or not, you know, we want to treat other people as we’d like to be treated,” said Golightly.

Harris agrees, saying now is the time for action.

“We’re really saying enough of just responding with our thoughts and prayers. That’s fine. It’s not enough. We have to be much more affirming of what we stand for, and we’re going to do it together and draw strength from each other,” he said.

The AJC’s global forum runs Sunday through Tuesday.