A woman pays her respects at a makeshift memorial in the aftermath of a deadly shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. Credit: Matt Rourke | AP

With profound sorrow and deep outrage, the Maine Council of Churches condemns the anti-Semitic act of hatred and lethal violence perpetrated on the worshiping congregation of Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and extends our prayers, sympathy, support and solidarity to them and our Jewish siblings here in Maine.

Over the past two years, we have witnessed a disturbing increase in anti-Semitic bias incidents and hate crimes, and last weekend’s shooting represents a horrifically predictable escalation along that despicable path as hate groups become more vocal, visible and violent. The council once again cautions against this growing and toxic culture of intolerance and bigotry that has infected our society. We call on our leaders — religious, political and cultural — to become agents and models of civility and compassion, upholding the dignity and rights of all people to live in peace.

And we, an organization of seven denominations representing 434 congregations and 55,000 congregants in Maine, call upon all faith communities in our state to stand in solidarity against all forms of religious, political and cultural prejudice and hatred; to rededicate ourselves to bringing peace, justice and hope to our broken world and its suffering people; and to join with all people of good will in offering our love, support and solidarity as we stand with and for our neighbors, near and far, who face hatred and discrimination.

In the words of The Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County, California, “Let us not allow the madness and hatred around us to become the world within us.”

[Opinion: The only way to respond to the mass killing in Pittsburgh is with strength]

We encourage Maine’s churches and people of faith to reach out to the Jewish communities in our midst to express compassion and commitment to them directly. We encourage everyone to attend vigils and religious services in the coming days to show we are all in this together and love will conquer hate.

At this sad time we are inspired by a prayer written by Rabbi Seth Goldstein after his temple in Olympia, Washington, was attacked in 2015:

“Our God and God of our ancestors, hate has been visited upon another community. Their sacred space has been violated. They feel vulnerable, afraid, angry and broken. … So we pray to You:

“May strength come from our vulnerability, so we can support one another, and receive the support of others with gratitude and humility.

“May compassion come from our fear, so we do not act from that fear, and we can pursue justice not revenge, peace not more violence.

“May wisdom come from our anger, so we are able to see that an attack against us is an attack against all, and we are able to join in common cause with those who are similarly oppressed and targeted.

“And may healing come from our brokenness, so we are able to rise from this challenge with renewed life, commitment and connection. …

“In light of this act of violence and hatred, we maintain our commitment … [to] upholding the teachings and traditions of Your covenant, pursuing righteousness and compassion, justice and mercy, peace and understanding, love and friendship.

“May You frustrate those who seek to do harm and uphold those who seek to do good. May the shelter of Your peace spread over us and over all who dwell on earth.

“And let us say, ‘Amen.’”

The Rev. Jane Field is executive director of the Maine Council of Churches.

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