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Bishop Dyck: Resolve to be a Peacemaker

Posted: August 7 2019 at 08:17 PM
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People gather in the entertainment district of Dayton, Ohio the day after a mass shooting claimed the lives of nine people, not including the shooter. Photo by the Rev. Chris Reese, West Ohio Conference.

I urge all churches to pray for the victims of violence and death across this country again this week. We too easily slip into “moving on,” forgetting how many families will never “move on” after last weekend alone. Theologian Miroslav Volf said, “There is something deeply hypocritical about praying for a problem you are unwilling to resolve.” We must endeavor “to do something,” as the crowd chanted at the governor of Ohio following the tragedy in Dayton. How will we resolve the violence, specifically related to guns, in our nation? What is our will to do so?

Both of the mass gun shootings this past weekend were horrific beyond words. Since then one salient factor from each of them has haunted me. 

The shooting in El Paso, Texas was related to the rise of white supremacy in our country. As people of faith, we must teach and preach against racial hatred and violence. We’re called to counteract any messaging that supports racial prejudice and denigrates any human being. 

The shooting in Dayton, Ohio has chilled me in terms of how much death and harm an automatic weapon can inflict in less than 30 seconds. There is no reason that such weapons need to be lawful for ordinary citizens. 

But in addition, this past weekend Chicago experienced its own "mass shootings" of more than 50 people who were injured and seven killed, joining 280 persons who have died from gunshot wounds since January 1. The trauma from gun violence in this city is a significant health risk.

In determining what we do, we need to be mindful of the various types of gun violence. Almost 40,000 people die each year from gun-related injuries. Two-thirds of them are from suicide. (I wonder how many people committed suicide last weekend.) Homicides are another third, including domestic violence, and a much smaller percentage—under 2% for each—is related to enforcement shootings and unintentional shootings. Different kinds of gun training and regulations may be needed for each of these categories. 

Congregations might be surprised to discover their own members have experienced tragedy, grief, and loss due to gun violence. It happens in all communities. At the very least, we need to educate ourselves about gun violence and talk to each other. Our Book of Resolutions, #3428: Our Call to End Gun Violence, on pages 391-395, gives our United Methodist stance. The General Board of Church and Society has a downloadable study guide that can be used individually or in groups, entitled “Kingdom Dreams, Violent Realities.” 

Pray for those in your life, community, church, and around the nation who suffer from the aftermath of gun violence and resolve to be a “peacemaker.”

~Bishop Sally Dyck
 

Read more from UMNS on how United Methodists are responding with both prayers and plans of action to address gun violence and hate, click here.

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