The Book of Proverbs teaches that “in every human soul is the light of God” (Proverbs 20:27). Representing diverse faith traditions, we, members of the clergy across the South Bay, stand together in solidarity and sorrow, recognizing the massacre in Las Vegas was, and continues to be, an affront to God and to all of humankind. This deplorable act extinguished the bright lights of 58 innocent souls (to date) and dimmed the lights of the almost 600 who were injured, the thousands who bore witness to the horror and the thousands more who knew and loved the victims. Indeed, the light of God was diminished in our nation.

This week, we mourn. We remain shocked and appalled as we struggle to find the appropriate words of comfort that will help our communities heal, and the appropriate words of outrage that speak to yet another senseless and inexplicable act of gun violence. While our thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims and their families, we know that without action, thoughts and prayers mean little. When our initial period of mourning comes to an end, we must turn our mourning into action.

We in the Jewish community are reminded of what God told Moses to tell the Israelite people as they prepared to enter the Promised Land: “Justice, Justice shall you pursue.” (Deuteronomy 16:18)

We in the Christian community are reminded of human suffering because as Paul wrote in Corinthians (12:26): “If one part [of the body] suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

We in the Muslim community learn how to respond to evil from God's Divine wisdom in the Qur'an: "Evil and goodness are not the same, repel evil with what is better (i.e. love and beauty) until the one who is like your worst enemy becomes like your best friend." Qur'an (41:34).  

And, as is taught in the Qur’an (5:23) and in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 37a), “anyone who kills an innocent person, it is as if he killed the entire humanity; conversely, if anyone saves a life, it is as if he saved the entire humanity.”

As clergy, it is vital for us to be pursuers of justice, peacemakers, healers of suffering and friends to those in need.  We bring healing and hope to communities that are saddened, outraged and suffering.

We commit, therefore, to bring our communities together to learn from one another’s diverse perspectives and find common ground. Any attempt to discuss policy or legislation will not undo the painful damage that has been done. However, that should not prevent us from having meaningful conversations with friends and neighbors who hold diverse opinions, about how to make our world safer, more peaceful.

In a time when our country is divided in so many ways, we believe our role as clergy is twofold: We must amplify the prophetic voice and bring the weight of our traditions to bear on issues that affect human lives; and we must amplify the pastoral role in bringing healing and wholeness to fractured communities.

We are not policy makers. We are moral leaders who yearn to use our pulpits and our positions to discuss, debate and also to heal because as Rabbi Hillel famously taught, “If not now, when?”

Join us on Wednesday, Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. at St. Francis Episcopal Church in Palos Verdes Estates for a respectful, thoughtful discussion on issues related to gun violence. The time is now.

In every human soul is the light of God. Today, we come together to bring a spark of light into the darkness.  

In friendship and solidarity,

Rabbi Charles Briskin (Temple Beth El, San Pedro), Rabbi Leah Lewis (Temple Menorah, Redondo Beach), Rt. Rev. Alexei Smith (Archdiocese of Los Angeles), the Very Rev. Paula Vukmanic (St Francis Episcopal Church, Palos Verdes Estates), Jihad Turk (President Bayan Claremont Islamic Graduate School), Reverend David Brown (Wayfarers Chapel, Rancho Palos Verdes), Dr. David D. Young (Neighborhood Church, UCC, Palos Verdes Estates), Rev. Dr. Sunny Kang (St. Luke's Presbyterian Church, Rolling Hills Estates), Sufi John Ishvaradas Abdallah (World Without Borders Interfaith Sufi Ashram), Pastor Lisa Williams (San Pedro United Methodist Church), the Rev. Jeanette Repp (St. Peter's Episcopal Church, San Pedro), Reverend Anna Woofenden (The Garden Church, San Pedro), Mustaqim Syed (President of Iqra Academy of Palos Verdes), Ehtesham M. Mirza (President of Islamic Center of South Bay-Los Angeles), the Rev. Jonathan Chute (Rolling Hills UMC), Rev. Dr. Donald J. Barnes (retired St. Peter’s By the Sea Presbyterian Church, Rancho Palos Verdes), Mark Pettis, senior minister (Manhattan Beach Community Church), the Rev. Dr. Dina Ferguson (St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, El Segundo), Rini Ghosh (Vedanta International Cultural Center), the Rev. Dr Rachel Anne Nyback (St. Cross Episcopal Church, Hermosa Beach), Rabbi Brian Schuldenfrei (Congregation Ner Tamid, Rancho Palos Verdes), Rabbi Joshua Kalev, (Congregation Tikvat Jacob Beth Torah, Manhattan Beach), Rev. Paul Barrett (St. Peter’s by the Sea Presbyterian Church, Rancho Palos Verdes), the Reverend Peter Huang (St. Francis Episcopal Church, Palos Verdes Estates),Rabbi Gila Katz (Klein Chaplaincy Services), Rev. Patti Angelo (St. Cross Episcopal Church, Hermosa Beach), the Rev. Ruth Eller (St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, San Pedro), Rabbi Mark Hyman (Congregation Tikvat Jacob, Manhattan Beach), Rev. Lee A. Carlile (El Segundo United Methodist Church), Rev. Barbara Buck (St. Peter’s by the Sea Presbyterian Church, Rancho Palos Verdes), Rev. Dr. Amy Aitken (Riviera United Methodist Church, Redondo Beach), Rev. Jon Gathje (St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Rancho Palos Verdes) Michael Gazdik (President of the Palos Verdes Stake, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), Cantor Ilan Davidson, (Temple Beth El, San Pedro), Adbullah Ali (Islamic Center of Hawthorne), Rabbi Deborah Bock Schuldenfrei (Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles), Rabbi Didi Thomas (Temple Emet, Torrance), Kent Carter, president (Torrance North Stake Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), Michael Moorhead, licensed minister (Neighborhood Church UCC, Palos Verdes Estates)
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