Faith leaders of a variety of stripes came together last night, Nov. 3, for a service centered on the theme of gun violence at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C.
The leaders -- together with activists, politicians and survivors of gun violence -- aimed to present a show of religious unity on the question of guns in American life, and the need for common sense gun laws.
The Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the National Cathedral, spoke to the decades of work he and others have put into combating gun violence.
“As hard as this work is," he said, "and it is hard -- it continues to be the most vital public health issue facing our nation."
"We will not go away," he said. "We will not give up.”
Speaking to pews filled but not packed, the Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, reminded that the debate was not about the “right to bear arms,” but about the country’s “love affair” with guns, which is “deeply troubling.”
“We are approaching a tipping point in the national conversation on gun violence," she said.
Imam Talib Shareef, of the Nation’s Mosque, spoke of how gun violence intersects with poverty and race.
“Black lives matter, brown lives matter, yes, all lives matter. Because God gave us these lives, these lives are sacred,” he said, calling gun violence “madness.”
“United we stand, divided we are falling,” he said. “Divided we are falling every day.”
Around the church’s massive halls hung plain white t-shirts inscribed with messages.
“46 women shot & killed monthly by domestic partners,” one read.
“86 percent of world civilian gun deaths are in the USA,” read another.
“Guns the 2nd leading cause of deaths for children,” read another still.
Rabbi Susan Landau of Washington D.C.’s Temple Micah, a Reform synagogue, said that "people of faith were not meant to mourn the loss of innocent life. We are meant to protect it.”
“Shalom Aleichem. Salaam alaikum. Peace be with you," she said. "These are the greetings heard in all our houses of worship."
“We stand together in reverence of human life and in genuine desire to honor and protect it. We must stop gun violence," she said. “And it doesn’t take a religious leader to recognize the need for change.”
Anti-gun violence groups present at the event included: Americans for Responsible Solutions, The Brady Campaign, Center for American Progress/Generation Progress, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Everytown/Moms Demand Action, Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, Heeding God’s Call, Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Media Matters, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, States United to Prevent Gun Violence and the Violence Policy Center.
Connecticut Senators Christopher Murphy and Richard Blumenthal also attended and spoke, as did Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty, who represents Newtown, Conn.
[Vinnie Rotondaro is NCR national correspondent. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.]