Clergy, Spiritual Leaders and other leaders in PIIN,
Once again, this world finds itself responding to another senseless mass shooting that took
place in a house of worship. The hatred in this country and in the world has once again risen to
a level that the infringement upon the sacred is not even questioned. Where sanctuary was
once considered synonymous with safety that can no longer be assumed. The tragedy in
Christchurch New Zealand should give all of us enough reason to examine the human capacity
to personify evil and to no longer scale the intensity of immoral acts according to proximity. For
us here in Pittsburgh we were deeply shaken by what happened in the three worshiping
congregations in the Tree of Life synagogue on October 27, 2018, an event that evoked high
moral intensity because of its proximity and a memory that will be etched in the minds of the
people in this region for a while. Christchurch, New Zealand is over 8,800 miles away and
because of this distance we could falsely, carelessly and dangerously navigate through the days
ahead unaffected. In 2004 a woman was abducted from a church on the West End in the middle
of worship and slain. In August 2012 six worshipers were killed in a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin.
On May of 2018 a member of the Mohammed Mosque in Wilkinsburg was fatally shot outside
his place of worship. Sanctuary and safety are becoming less and less synonymous. But Rev. Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s words are ever so true, that we all are “inextricably linked in network of
Through this message I am strongly encouraging each of us as faith leaders in PIIN to sound the
alarm and stand publicly against hate and the violence that follows. This is unquestionably
spawned in our country by the current political climate, a product of racism, xenophobia, anti-
Semitism and homophobia. We are all affected by this tragedy and all those aforementioned,
including the mass shooting in the Mother Emanual AME church in Charleston, SC. Let us pray,
but let us also be courageously prophetic in speaking truth to power.
If you and your congregation would like to support the families and other victims of the
mosques in New Zealand, the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh is organizing those support
efforts through the following link: https://jewishpgh.org/new-zealand-islamophobic-attack-
emergency-relief-fund/ as well as the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh.
Om, Shalom, Alhamdulilah, God’s Peace be with you.
Rev. Dr. John C. Welch
Chair, PIIN Spiritual Leaders Caucus
Chair, Board of Directors, Gamalial Network