Bishop Weaver shares thoughts following New Zealand mosque attacks

Pete Weaver: Thoughts shared Sunday, March 17 at a vigil at the Islamic Center of Richmond following New Zealand mosque attacks

I am new to this territory but I am not new to the territory of hate and intolerance and violence that comes through our society, from our politicians, comes as an echo that then takes on hands and feet and picks up weapons, weaponizes language, weaponizes guns, weaponizes pushing away, weaponizes injustice.

I grew up in Pittsburgh. Thirty years ago as a pastor of a United Methodist congregation near the University of Pittsburgh, 1990, the University of Pittsburgh found white supremacist literature and posters plastered all through the university. Racist, homophobic, Islamophobia, anti-Semitic, one after another in that institution of so called higher education.

We had had several killings in that city that had been racially motivated in 1990. And it was the congregations of that city that began to take the lead in a movement called One Voice Against Racism, one meaning united, united against racism.

And within one year 500 congregations, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, congregations in that city made the pledge to stand together as you and I are standing here tonight and to live our lives in such a way that we would share love instead of hate, we would work for justice in the midst of injustice, that we would reach out to one another as neighbors.

One of those congregations was the Tree of Life congregation, that was not far from the United Methodist church I served. As a matter of fact, I went to high school with two of the victims of the Tree of Life murders.

As we gathered together to work together, there began to become transitions both at the University of Pittsburgh in our student ministries, our campus ministries, as well as in our neighborhoods and our community.

Now as has been indicated, some of us are getting cold. But you know what cold is. It’s the absence of warm. You know what hate is. It’s the absence of love. You know how you can get a little warmer out there on the periphery here? Get a little closer together, get a little closer together. Share the love, share the warmth, share the light, share the sun that God created and put over all of us who are God’s children. Not a one of us should be left in the cold. Not another one should be murdered at prayer to the God who created us all and made us equal.

I simply end with the quote that many of you I’m sure know, but it’s important to remember, from Martin Niemöller, in the midst of Nazi Germany when he wrote. When they came for the Communists I did not speak because I was not a Communist. And then they came for the Jews and I did not speak because I was not a Jew. And then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak because I was not a trade unionist. And then they came for the Catholics and I did not speak because I was a Protestant. And we might on this day updating that quote. They come for the Muslims. And then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.

Friday as quickly as I could I sent a letter to the 300,000 United Methodists in the state of Virginia as their new Bishop and I invited them to be warmth and love as Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself, as yourself.” It’s in all of our traditions in one way or another. I invited United Methodists to begin to reach out and to speak in the conversations they have with their coworkers, in the places of politics, in the places where we share our most sacred prayers, to be love and light. Let us do it before they come for us.


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