With Sunday's shooting in Orlando, Florida, our hearts break. We mourn. We grieve. We weep.
In this difficult time, we are grateful for those creating opportunities for ALL of us to be together, mourn together and heal together.
"Through our tears, we connect to those who suffer, and we humanize a situation caused by the dehumanizing actions of others."
These are words from the Rev. Victor Kazanjian, Executive Director of the United Religions Initiative, a global grassroots community of people who stand for the equal inclusion of all people, not in spite of, but because of -- and in appreciation of -- our differences.
We are a community built on the conviction that there is power and beauty in our diversity. We believe that we – people of all religions, spiritualities and convictions – need each other, to bring peace, justice and healing to our world
In the good times, we need each other to build programs that educate students in the Golden Rule, to care for our homeless neighbors, to support refugees and immigrants. And, on days like today, we need each other to cope with our grief.
I have heard many complaints that vigils and prayers are not enough. And I agree that, if we stop there, they are not. But today, tomorrow, in the coming days, we need to BE together. Together, people of faith and no faith, create safe places for all to mourn. And only together can we "awaken to our deepest truths...to manifest love and justice among all life." When we gather together, we tap into the power of mourning in community - a power that transcends our individual capacities. We tap into something deeper.
In being in a place where what is unique about each person is appreciated, we come up with solutions -- previously unseen -- to help heal our communities. We inspire one another and come one step closer to making our world a place where peace, justice, and healing prevail.
"As our hearts break, let them break open as we extend our love to all those who were affected, and our solidarity to those who feel increasingly vulnerable as the targets of hate and bigotry," Kazanjian wrote on Sunday.
Today, many URI members and other interfaith organizers around the United States, are creating these spaces:
- In Sebastian, Florida, the interfaith intentional community Kashi, dedicated their Sunday Evening Arti and prayers dedicated to all the victims and their families of the horrific shootings in Orlando.
- In Phoenix, Arizona, Mayor Greg Stanton, Equality Arizona and allied organizations and faith leaders, including members of URI Cooperation Circles Sun Devils Are Better Together and Arizona Faith Network, convened a candlelight vigil in solidarity for the victims.
- On Sunday, the San Francisco Interfaith Council invited faith leaders to assemble at Harvey Milk Plaza for a vigil to honor, remember and pray for the victims who lost their lives.
- On Bainbridge Island, Washington, the community, including URI member Interfaith Council of Bainbridge Island/North Kitsap, gathered Monday for a community vigil and to write messages on scrolls that will be sent to both Orlando and Charleston.
- Multifaith leaders in Reno, Nevada on Sunday gathered to condemn the shooting and to light lamps in honor of those who have passed.
- The Tri-Cities Interfaith Council in Fremont, California will gather Thursday for interfaith prayers and remarks before moving to stand at the intersection to show solidarity and be a presence to the community that we will not stand for these hateful actions and violence.
- On Thursday the Sundial Bridge NorcalOUTreach in Redding, California will sponsor a vigil in solidarity with the communities, families, and victims of the massacre.
- In Cary, North Carolina, the Community Peace Project and Islamic Association of Cary, hosted an interfaith and community vigil on Monday.
- The Interfaith Alliance of Idaho gathered on the steps of the state capitol in Boise Sunday for a vigil and a call to exercise love and not hate.
- In Austin, Texas interfaith leaders and the LGBTQI community gathered Sunday at the Texas State Capitol for a vigil.
- In Olympia, Washington, Interfaith Works, Capitol City Pride and Unity in the Community held a vigil at Sylvester Park.
- In Kingston, Ontario, Anglican Bishop Oulton sponsored a vigil Monday at Springer Market Square and encouraged parishes and individuals to contribute to an interfaith book of condolences that will be sent to the mayor of Orlando.
There are many more interfaith vigils and events than can be shared in this post; to read about them click here for a full list. WeAreOrlando.org is also a website that has been setup to track vigils, of all kinds, happening across the United States; follow that link for more information.
In these days, may we mourn and grieve and weep together. And, in these spaces and many others, may we also be inspired to act together, for the well-being of our communities, our countries, and the world.
The United Religions Initiative is the world's largest network of grassroots interfaith peacebuilders, with 787 member groups in 95 countries all working with coalitions of people of multiple religions, spiritual expressions or Indigenous traditions to create cultures of peace, justice and healing. To find out how to get involved, click here.