Reflections on the Role of IFC in Responding to Tragedies in Our World

The Interfaith Council of Metropolitan Washington, as our name implies, serves primarily within our nation’s capital to create an inclusive community of diverse faiths that is focused on the values that unite us and the distinctions that make each faith unique.  We are deeply committed to stand with our neighbors in this region when events around the world threaten their safety and security.

For example, in recent times we have reached out to our Hindu-Jain community when a Hindu Temple in Louisville was vandalized and have created a program on “Securing Your House of Worship” at the Sri Siva Vishnu Temple in Lanham, Maryland, that will be open to the whole community on May 5.  Even more tragically, in the wake of the horrendous mass murder of Muslims attending their Jum’ah prayers in New Zealand, we felt we had an obligation to encourage expressions of solidarity with our Muslim sisters and brothers in this region.

While it is no doubt that the clash of political values exacerbates tensions and the potential for violence, we tried in our response to emphasize the commonalities of our traditions and the resources that all faiths have to demonstrate our IFC vision.  Blaming or stigmatizing parts of our community is unlikely to lead to a reduction of violence or demeaning those different from ourselves. I hope you can see this approach in the words I shared at two of our Muslim communities the day of the massacre and the following Saturday night (Masjid Muhammad and the Muslim Community Center of Silver Spring)  I know it is still the case that our neighbors in minority faiths who have recently been victimized by actions of hate and bigotry will continue to welcome visits and actions of solidarity. In part I said:

“We pray that God will receive in mercy the souls of all of those tragically torn from our midst by unspeakable violence in New Zealand.  As is taught in Islam and other faiths, each person, each soul, represents a world of possibility and the loss of every single individual is as if we have lost an entire world.  As we mourn this senseless loss of life, we hold our Muslim family in our hearts and commit to stand with them during this painful time – including by visibly and vocally showing up in solidarity.  

We encourage all those who hear our voice to reach out to our local Muslim sisters and brothers, to provide words and actions of solidarity including attending Muslim prayer services and adding prayers as appropriate in every house of worship and in every heart for the souls of our sisters and brothers who have been taken from this life as well as for the healing of the immediate families of the survivors.

This horrendous attack on a place of worship represents the darkest forces of humanity, which have been emboldened by a global rise of xenophobia.  How we respond to the hatred and bigotry around the world and in our Metropolitan Washington area is going to vary for each individual. But it is the job of each us to figure out how we can best use our knowledge and skills to help humanity, to demonstrate that we may be of many faiths, but we are one human family.