Tragedies: An opportunity for Interfaith Cooperation

There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to take the life of the most innocent of the Lord’s creations: our children. The recent massacre in Newtown is a blatant act of terror even when such qualification is absent from the mainstream media. The brutal perpetrator, Adam Lanza is not referred to as a terrorist, most probably because he was neither an illegal immigrant nor his last name was of Arab descent. Lanza certainly fits most recognized definitions of “terrorist.”

An honest evaluation of the causes for the undisputable prevalence of violence in our society must consider multiple contributing factors that lead to this type of atrocious tragedies. We are witnessing an overt public discussion of almost every angle of the need of stricter gun control; as if severe laws would automatically result in a solution to this violent behavior. The reality is that stricter laws, if approved, will limit access to assault weapons, while doing absolutely nothing to control the millions of assault weapons already in hands of millions of people. Even when gun control discussions and expeditious tangible actions are pertinent, this social problem requires a more comprehensive, holistic approach.

In times of mourning, most of us reach to our Lord for comfort and much needed peace. True fear of God, spiritual engagement, prayer, and the need to live guided by moral principles — such as respect for life, property, and the rights of others –are beyond the purview of subjects found and taught in school textbooks. These lofty values are all encompassed within the framework of the family and true community living. It is impossible to expect the enactment of these principles if they are not first experienced within the family unit. It is foolish to expect wholesome communities when most of our families don’t even know or interact with their neighbors.

Unfortunately, violence has been portrayed as something normal and acceptable. We buy our kids the most violent electronic games. The more people they kill and the more property damage they inflict, the better high-scoring champions they become.

Glaringly absent from the public discussion is the fact that our country is an extremely violent nation engaged in multiple and continuous wars for over the past decade. Children like mine, in their early teens, have been brought up in a nation in a state of constant war. On a daily basis, they are exposed to news of our armed forces’ unremitting killing and relentless bombardment of people in various countries around the world; in addition to almost daily news of our soldiers being killed. For the young generation, war and its atrocities are the norm and not the exception. For as long as they can remember, war is what their nation perpetrates; and they do not perceive it as something extreme and undesirable, but ordinary.

The recurrence of bloody tragedies such as Newtown shows that our institutions fail to protect our children. Government priorities do not reflect a genuine concern for their physical and emotional security and well-being. There is a pressing need to refocus national resources to match recent political discourse over gun control with action. Perhaps the political leadership might now ask itself how much of more than $1 trillion US dollars in 2012 defense-related expenditures was focused on our children’s safety and security. According to the Children’s Defense Fund’s “Leave No Child Behind,” 5,740 children and teens were killed by guns in 2008 and 2009; almost twice the victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks. In response to the Newtown debacle, our nation is moving swiftly to prevent a similar tragedy. Sadly, however, our institutions fail to render appropriate attention and dedicated resources to protect our children from acts of terror like this and the Columbines which came before.

Children all around the world fall victim to violence and they should be mourned as well. Professor Bill Quigley, Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights at Loyola University, recently called President Obama to remember and mourn all of our child victims: “Remember the 20 children who died in Newtown, CT; Remember the 35 children who died in Gaza this month from Israeli bombardments; Remember the 168 children who have been killed by US drone attacks in Pakistan since 2006; Remember the 231 children killed in Afghanistan in the first 6 months of this year; Remember the 400 other children in the US under the age of 15 who die from gunshot wounds each year; Remember the 921 children killed by US air strikes against insurgents in Iraq; Remember the 1,770 US children who die each year from child abuse and maltreatment; Remember the 16,000 children who die each day around the world from hunger.”

We all are called to see the challenges that these tragedies bring as opportunities for continuous coordinated interfaith cooperation efforts. In addition to the most needed prayers we all need to build bridges across the aisle that translate in innovative interfaith projects not just to mourn the victims and help them get their lives back together; but to help prevent these tragedies from their root causes. Children are of the best of God’s creations. Jewish tradition holds them so pure that the Talmud states: “the very breath of children is free of sin”; and Psalm 127 declares: “children are an inheritance from the Lord.” Christian tradition is compassionate towards children citing Jesus’ words in the Book of Mathew: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” In Islam, children are considered a trust given by the Creator to parents, who will be held responsible before Allah on Judgment Day. Let us all act to uphold this sacred trust!

(Photo by Fraoncois Polito; Wikimedia Commons)

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One thought on “Tragedies: An opportunity for Interfaith Cooperation

  1. Wilfredo, I never considered how our being at war has been the constant reality for our young people.

    Growing up in the 1980s – 90s, I remember thinking of war as a rare thing. It happened in history books. When the firat Gulf War happened it was huge news, and it was over almost immediately. I assumed this was the new norm for military action, and when 9/11 happened (I was in college) I assumed our new war would, likewise, be over quick.

    (That alone has several shades of naivete — is a quick war a “good” war?)

    In middle school we were taught that the Trojan war lasted ten straight years. We were all shocked. I can’t imagine what our Vietnam-era teacher thought of our reaction.

    I suppose that kids born in the 1990s don’t remember a time that we weren’t fighting. I don’t know what effect that has on a person’s mentality. Does it make them apathetic? Does it make them more motivated?

    I don’t know the answer, but now I want to reach out to my younger friends and ask their opinions on war.

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