Auburn Senior Fellows Respond To ChristChurch Attack: Broken Hearted, But Won’t Lose Hope

By Auburn Senior Fellows

Auburn Senior Fellows, Valarie Kaur and Linda Sarsour, are promoting two efforts to support the Muslim families in New Zealand. Valerie has started a campaign on Auburn’s Groundswell petition platform to send love and solidarity to the families, which people can support here. Linda is promoting a fundraising campaign to support the families here.  All of our Auburn Senior Fellows are broken-hearted with the news out of New Zealand and many offer personal reflections here, which we encourage you to share:

Rabbi Sharon Brous, Founding rabbi, IKAR

So far we know of 49 people who died in the mosques in Christchurch, and nearly 50 who were seriously injured. But they are not the only victims of this attack. There were hundreds of Muslims praying inside those holy spaces when the gunmen entered, hundreds of people who will now bear psychological scars for the rest of their lives. There are the thousands who are directly touched by this terror attack: family members of victims and survivors, friends, loved ones. And there are millions of Muslims around the world who will get up to go to Friday prayers today with grieving hearts, with fear for themselves and their children and with a deeper awareness of their own vulnerability.

I know this because in November, after the shooting at Tree of Life, the whole Jewish community felt the reverberations immediately and fiercely, across the country and across the world. We trembled, wept and worried. Our family had been attacked.

My heart hurts for my Muslim brothers and sisters. You have been targeted with a crude and shameless bigotry, especially in this country, especially over the past several years. Your faith has been desecrated for political gain, your bodies and holy sites threatened by an unapologetic hatred. I am a Jew and a rabbi. I reach out to you with love and in solidarity.

I lift up the survivors of Tree of Life, Sutherland Springs, Mother Emmanuel and Oak Creek, knowing that this attack, a world away, is an attack on all people of faith, and will likely thrust many survivors back into their own trauma.

I lift up all the survivors and loved ones of victims of gun violence, who will awaken to the news that another horrific act of violence has struck, tearing apart bodies, families and communities.

I lift up all who suffer at the hands of white supremacy, a hateful, radical ideology that has wreaked havoc and devastation across generations and oceans. No amount of human suffering will satisfy those whose hearts incline toward racialized hatred. This extremism threatens each of us and all of us.

Among the great shames of our age is that we have come to assume that gun violence can strike us or our loved ones anywhere—in the office, on the street, in a movie theater, in school. Even still, there is a special kind of horror knowing that sacred spaces, too, can be the sites of such carnage. No person should ever feel unsafe walking into mosque, church, synagogue, temple. I ask God to give us all strength. And I ask us to see: raw hatred combined with the proliferation of deadly weapons will continue to unleash unthinkable human misery. God can weep with us, but only we—through acts of love and courage—can stop this madness. #ChristchurchShooting

Brian D. McLaren, author/activist

On the morning after another massacre:

I was raised in a Christian home. We were sincere, dedicated, quiet, devout. Then I became a pastor. I immersed myself in theology and spiritual formation. In recent years, I have worked as a writer, speaker, and activist, across Christian denominations and in multi-faith settings. After all these years of prayer and study, all these years of labor and love, on the morning after another massacre, here is what I feel:

Bottom of FormWhatever your race, religion, party, or nation, I respect your beliefs. Yet I know your beliefs, professed in words, are like membership cards by which you gain entry to this or that religious community. So here is what matters more than words:

How you live, how you love. That is how you show what you actually believe, beneath all words. Equally, I respect your label, your tradition, your history, your heritage, the rituals and holidays that have formed you. Yet what matters more, what matters now, is this:

Will you stand for the life of your neighbor of another race, religion, party, or nation as if your neighbor were your sister, brother, father, mother? Surely, you and the people of your race, religion, party, or nation desire life, freedom, dignity, opportunity. And surely your neighbors who differ from you desire the same things as you. In each race, religion, party, and nation, there is a wing under the sway of fear, resentment, revenge, and violence. And there is another wing too. A growing wing that knows: There is no way to peace, for peace itself is the way. My dream, my prayer, is that the just, generous, and peaceful wings of each race, religion, party, and nation will arise, awaken, find each other, and unite for the common good to overcome fear with holy wisdom; and hate with revolutionary love.

Valarie Kaur, founder, Revolutionary Love Project

Our hands tremble with the horror at this bloodshed in a sacred space. How do we show up right now in Revolutionary Love? Through our tears, we must act swiftly. To all who feel helpless right now: Hate on this scale feels like looking into the abyss. But we are not powerless.

Please send your message of love and solidarity to the Muslim families of Christchurch. We will make sure that your words are delivered to the families and survivors:…/send-a-message-of-lov…

Donate to the victims and families of this massacre:…/support_for_the_families__vict…

In the wake of recent mass shootings in Pittsburgh, Charleston, and Oak Creek, we worked with Auburn Seminary to collect tens of thousands of letters and prayers of support, which were then bound and delivered in person to the survivors and families. In Oak Creek, the books are still preserved in the gurdwara’s library. Long after the media trucks leave, these physical embodiments of solidarity show the community we will not leave their side. Our movements are only as strong as our solidarity is deep. Right now, Muslim and Sikh Americans are preparing for heightened security at our houses of worship across the U.S. this weekend. We need your support more than ever.

We know that this news is sending waves of grief in households across New Zealand, the United States, and around the world. We mourn with you. We share your outrage. We are breathing with you. We will not leave your side. We will not forget those who were slaughtered. In their name, we pledge to rise up against white supremacy — in our institutions, on our streets, online, in our homes, and in our own hearts.

This news triggers previous traumas. I am transported back to the Oak Creek gurdwara. I see the blood of Sikh uncles & aunties in the prayer hall. What helped me breathe then… and now: love. Love as sustained practical care. Love as courage. Love each other. If people in your life are hurting right now and need this message, please share this with them. This is a time to take one another’s hand.

#ChristchurchMosqueAttack #RevolutionaryLove

Rev. Traci Blackmon, Associate General Minister, Justice & Local Church Ministries, The United Church of Christ

This world is deeply broken in ways that only love can heal. Radical love. Confrontational love. Unapologetic love. Love that will not tolerate hate.

Rabbi Stephanie Kolin, Associate rabbi of Central Synagogue in New York City.

No one should have to fear their house of God, their spiritual home, bending in prayer, praying in community.  Allow our love to hold each of you up at a time of such grief and pain.

May the victims and their families and all of Christchurch, New Zealand, and the world know they are not alone, and find healing in the days ahead.

rev. angel Kyodo Williams, Writer, Activist, Zen Priest 

members of the Buddhist community, and certainly myself personally, are profoundly saddened by this tragedy and the targeting of Muslim peoples, most especially in their house of worship. i stand in grief and fierce resistance with my Muslim family near and far, connected by blood and love. may our collective prophetic resistance and the work of showing up for each other create the conditions in which we can all exist, pray, celebrate, love without fear.

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, Senior Pastor, Middle Collegiate Church

Waking up this morning to the news of yet another massacre in a house of worship, I wept so hard it made me sick to my stomach. I ache for all my Muslim siblings in Christchurch, whose lives were cut short, whose sense of safety is shattered, whose mosques are desecrated. I stand with you, and am praying for your broken hearts. And all over the globe, wives will now ask their husbands to stay home from prayer; young women will question wearing their hijabs; and Sikhs will be mistaken for Muslim because of their turbans. These acts of terror do terrorize us, and for this I also mourn.

Echoes of Oak Creek, Charlottesville and Pittsburgh float on the hoarse, sinister, and persistent voice of a White Supremacist ideology that has masqueraded as religion through the ages. It has had power enough to cause the Crusades, the Doctrine of Discovery, and the genocide of Jews and indigenous people around the globe. Their god inspired a theology of Apartheid, enslaved Africans, and is destroying our Mama earth, in the name of greed. Their god values the right to carry guns more than the right to live, work, play and pray without fear of gun violence.

It is important on a day like today for us to be really clear about how hyper-masculinity, racism, and the policies of nations like ours lead to the destruction of lives. Hate speech, Muslim bans, anti-immigrant sentiment, the dismantling of Civil Rights, the banning of Trans-folks from the military, anti-Black racism in law enforcement, and rising xenophobia and antisemitism testify to what happens when racist fascism rises to power.

Rev. Michael-Ray Mathews, Deputy Director of Faith in Action, Host, Prophetic Resistance Podcast

In the wake of the violent tragedy in Christchurch, New Zealand, we stand with our Muslim kindred. We are reminded today of why our multi-faith relationships of compassion and solidarity matter. Our collective resistance to hierarchies of human value is rooted in revolutionary love — a love that transforms us into the Beloved Community. It affirms that we belong to one another.

Rev. Raphael Warnock, Senior Pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church

God grieves today. And we who believe in soul freedom and the dignity of every human being weep with God and with our sisters and brothers in New Zealand. Yet, we must do more than weep. We must work together for the healing of our broken world. May God comfort the families of our Muslim sisters and brothers and give us courage and moral insight to make real the promise given to Abraham — a world where “all of the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Lisa Sharon Harper, founder, Freedom Road LLC

The global community finds itself united upon the news that 50 human beings lost their lives yesterday. Fifty families have been fractured. Fifty communities find the web of their relationships torn as deep grief is injected, once again, into the world.

To my Muslim friends and family we say: You are beautiful. Your lives are beautiful. Your family is beautiful. By observing the depth of your devotion to God my own Christian devotion has been informed and strengthened.

You are a gift to our nation and to our world. Know that we stand with you in your grief and we walk with you in your struggle to flourish in our world.

Rev. Dr. Peter Goodwin Heltzel, New York Theological Seminary 

We have lost 49 of God’s beautiful and beloved children to a hate crime and act of terrorism in Christchurch, New Zealand. During this time of pain and anger, I encourage you all to spread love instead of hate, good instead of evil. Together we can heal and build a better tomorrow.

Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Senior Pastor, Trinity United Church of Christ

Our Muslim Family

We pray for you, that the peace of the Creator Of All be with you.

Our Muslim Brothers, we pray for you, that the God of us all grant you comfort and strong assurance.

Our Muslim Sisters, we pray that you feel the Love of God, and the sweet security of God’s embrace.

Our Muslim children. Please know that all of you are loved by God but also by so many of us – Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs, Muslims, agnostics and even atheists – know that hate is not the last word, and that there are people all over the world that don’t look like you, but love you dearly, and hurt with you.

We at Trinity United Church of Christ declare our love for ALL of God’s children, and that we will never stop fighting against the demon of white supremacy, the true scourge of our earth.

Love will win!


Auburn Senior Fellows bring justice-centered faith into the public square to help meet, head-on, today’s most pressing challenges — from race and equality to religion and politics, and beyond. They are an unprecedented cohort of changemakers. 

Read statement in response to Christchurch by Auburn President Rev. Dr. Katharine Rhodes Henderson and opinion piece by Auburn Senior Vice President Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush.

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