Beyond Thoughts and Prayers

I write this on the day that news broke of a horrendous terrorist attack, murdering dozens of worshippers at two Christchurch Mosques. You know the story, and have all processed this in your way. That morning, on my way to an appointment, I saw a simple bouquet of flowers placed at the closed door of a Mosque. I was touched that someone had the thoughtfulness to create that simple, loving gesture of support.

It’s never going to be something I can comprehend; taking the lives of others because of fear and hate will never make sense to me. I’m sure you feel the same way. The senseless loss of life, and destruction of families and communities, is mind-boggling and heart-wrenching. We are reading and hearing, and will continue to read and hear, stories of these people. It’s important that we do that; these were real people with real lives and they deserved to be remembered as humans and not numbers in a climbing death-toll. But I want to use this space to talk about some of these issues in a broader frame. This isn’t to detract from the sadness and loss, it’s to help ensure these attacks stop so there needn’t be more sadness and loss.

I think the time is here for some brave conversations. It’s easy and uncontroversial to say that our thoughts are with the victims and their families. It’s harder to say what is true in our hearts but, as Secular Humanistic Jews, that’s our way of being: we say what we believe and we believe what we say. We know these attackers were fuelled by anti-immigrant sentiment. It is dangerous and it is widespread, both abroad and here at home.

I am deeply concerned about political leaders who fan the flames of white supremacy by scapegoating and targeting immigrants and refugees. I am also angry at our leaders who can’t find it in themselves to denounce white supremacists. None of us is responsible for what happened in Christchurch, but each of us is responsible for holding our leaders to account and letting them know that xenophobia and hate have no place here. I urge you to consider that voting for someone who speaks alongside known white supremacists sends the message that this, all of this, is ok. It’s so far from ok.

We already know that the dynamics that led to this attack on Mosques are the same dynamics that led to the attacks in a Pittsburgh synagogue last fall. For all the tension between Jews and Muslims, we face a very real common enemy now: the growing movements of white supremacists who enjoy proximity to people in power, who are emboldened by fake news and hate online, and who have access to weapons that should not exist. This is all my own opinion and, as always, you are welcome to disagree. But I’m beyond tears now; I’m angry. I think a lot of you feel the same way. We need to be loud that this can’t keep happening. We deserve a much kinder, loving world.