By Sister Sara Dwyer, ASC

Our country has been shocked, perhaps even numbed, by the continued horrific violence inspired by a white supremacist/white nationalist ideology.

In just the last week:

  • Suspect Cesar Sayoc allegedly attempted to kill prominent Democrats, Trump critics and staff at CNN with targeted pipe bombs in the mail.
  • Two black Americans were gunned down in a grocery store in Kentucky after the alleged shooter initially tried to enter a black church minutes earlier.
  • A grisly shooting left 11 people dead at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, our president stokes fear and hatred as a political strategy to mobilize his base and denies its relationship to these violent acts.

As people of faith, we need to stand up, speak up and, yes, act up, to address the causes of this violence! We need to challenge all leaders, institutions and forces that encourage hatred and fear to stop the rhetoric and lies!

We must help stop gun violence and unrestrained “freedom of speech” designed to infect hearts and minds with misinformation, outright lies and unjustified disparaging of people and groups.

We must work to turn public opinion back to our nation’s founding vision that was so eloquently stated in Emma Lazarus’ sonnet, “New Colossus,” inscribed in the Statue of Liberty:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

But where do we start, you ask?

Start with yourself and your own actions.

  • Attend a service at a Jewish synagogue, Islamic community or mosque and learn about their beliefs;
  • Seek out a black community organization and get to know their issues and build a relationship;
  • Sign up for assisting refugees, migrants or those struggling with homelessness through Catholic Charities or other organizations; befriend a family (or person) and learn of their struggles;
  • Join Pax Christi, Sojourners, the Children’s Defense Fund, the Southern Poverty Law Center (which monitors hate groups) or other social justice organizations;
  • Change yourself to not judge another and always use civil discourse in describing your positions;
  • Be an agent for change by being engaged in the political life of your community.