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Our nation needs healing: We must reject all kinds of violence in word and deed Print
Editorial
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012 -- 12:00 AM

Editor's View by Mary C. Uhler

On Good Friday we hear the words of Jesus from the cross, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Those words came to my mind as I was thinking about the killing of six members of the Sikh religion on August 5 at their temple in Oak Creek. We still don’t know what motivated the gunman, Wade Michael Page, who apparently killed himself after the rampage. We know that he had ties with white supremacist groups.

Violence in our society

It seems as if many people in our society today don’t know what they are doing, especially when they injure and kill other people. We seem to be a nation riddled with violence, in both word and deed.

The senseless shootings in Aurora, Colo., along with the killings in Oak Creek are just some of the instances of violence which happen in frightening regularity throughout our country in our streets, businesses, and homes — and even in our places of worship.

We also experience violence in words, especially in our legislatures and in political campaigns. I noticed that after the Aurora shootings, there was one day of civility on the campaign trail — and then the personal attacks resumed.

Building understanding

What can we do in the face of all this violence? I think the first step is trying to build understanding and knowledge. Jesus said, “They know not what they do.” He might even have added, “They don’t know who I am.”

In the case of members of the Sikh religion, I don’t think there is much knowledge of who they are. I have to admit to very little understanding of their beliefs. It took this tragedy for me to look up information on Sikhs.

I was surprised to find out that there are 20 million Sikhs in the world, the fifth largest religious group in the world. Sikhism is a monotheistic religion, which stresses the importance of doing good actions. Sikhs believe that the way to lead a good life is to: keep God in heart and mind at all times;  live honestly and work hard; treat everyone equally; be generous to the less fortunate; and serve others. Some people may think the Sikhs are Muslims or Hindus, but they follow neither of these faiths.

Although their beliefs are different than ours, they are certainly a peaceful people. Many have become loyal citizens of the United States. I heard that one Sikh man embarrassed his children by flying a large American flag in his front yard!

I don’t know what the shooter in the Sikh temple thought about the adherents of this faith, but I presume that he didn’t know much about them. It would be helpful if young people and adults learned at least basic information about people of other faiths, so that fear and prejudice don’t fill the vacuum.

Building solidarity and respect for others

Archbishop Jerome Listecki of Milwaukee assured the Sikh community after the shootings “that our prayers go out in solidarity with you.” He added, “We pray for God’s consoling and healing to be there for the Sikh community.”

In an interview with the Catholic Herald in Milwaukee, Archbishop Listecki said, “I was totally taken aback. I was totally shocked that anyone would come in and do such an act of violence, but also to do it within the context of church, temple, synagogue, mosque. Here are people coming together to worship God, and what happens? They’re confronted by evil. This tells us that we have to be mindful of evil in the world.”

Retired Auxiliary Bishop Richard J. Sklba, long active in interreligious and ecumenical affairs, said Catholics should consider several things as a result of what happened at the Sikh temple. “We, as Catholics with our commitment to global solidarity, because we are Catholic, there is a universalism in our faith that we who are committed to global solidarity will be ever more conscious of the need to respect all religious traditions throughout the whole world,” he said.

Bishop Sklba said that the murders should serve as an opportunity for renewal of respect for all holy places.

Be peacemakers ourselves

Besides building understanding, knowledge, and respect for others, I think we also have to be peacemakers ourselves. We should not use violence of any kind to solve problems. This includes violence in word.

A new Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll conducted July 9 to July 11 revealed that American people want civility and a conversation of political issues, rather than personal attacks.

In response, the Knights of Columbus has launched a national, nonpartisan initiative “to give voice to Americans’ desire for civility in public discourse.” The initiative includes a series of national newspaper ads to encourage readers to sign an online petition at www.CivilityinAmerica.org or show support via Facebook by “liking” the petition at Facebook.com/CivilityinAmerica

This is one place to start as we try to reverse a culture of violence and bring healing and peace to our nation.

 
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