Bishop Kettler: Healing the wounds of violence and division

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Shock. Sadness. Frustration.

Like many of you, I have felt a range of emotions over the last 10 days in the wake of the shootings in Dallas, Baton Rouge and right here in Minnesota.

bishop-kettler-faith-hope-love-137x300The violent loss of life, no matter the circumstance, is always a tragedy. I ask you to join me in praying for the five Dallas police officers who were killed: Michael Smith, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa and Brent Thompson. I ask you also to pray for Philando Castile and Alton Sterling — the two black men killed in officer-related shootings that have prompted public protests. May God’s never-ending love and mercy bring their families and loved ones comfort during this difficult time.

In addition to the personal impact these shootings have, they also highlight serious challenges we face as a nation. We make it too easy for people who are bent on violence to buy guns designed to kill as many people as quickly as possible. Racist attitudes and prejudices still cloud too many hearts and minds. Our political discourse regularly fuels anger and division rather than hope and unity. The culture of life is often overshadowed by an unhealthy worldview that fosters intolerance and fear toward immigrants and others who look, think and worship differently than we do.

As people of faith, it is important not to lose hope in the face of these challenges. We must continue to pray for peace in our communities, work for justice, and foster a culture of life in all that we say and do.

Our faith teaches us that black lives matter, police officers’ lives matter — every life matters, because every human life is sacred. We are all children of God, created in his image and likeness, no matter the color of our skin, the country we come from or the faith we profess.

A protester prays near Dallas police officers July 7 after police officers were shot during a protest in Dallas. Snipers shot and killed five police officers and wounded seven more at the demonstration to protest the police killing of black men in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Two civilians also were injured in Dallas. (CNS photo/Ralph Lauer, EPA)
A protester prays near Dallas police officers July 7 after police officers were shot during a protest in Dallas. Snipers shot and killed five police officers and wounded seven more at the demonstration to protest the police killing of black men in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Two civilians also were injured in Dallas. (CNS photo/Ralph Lauer, EPA)

Like the Good Samaritan, whose story we heard at Mass last Sunday, Jesus demands that we help our neighbor. And our neighbor is anyone who is in need of our care, our mercy and our respect.

How do we do this in light of recent events?

As citizens, we need to encourage our leaders to put aside partisanship and political rancor in order to truly serve the common good. We need laws that do a better job of controlling the availability and sale of the kinds of firearms used in horrific mass shootings like the ones in Dallas, Orlando, Newtown, Connecticut, and Aurora, Colorado. We need policies that improve access to mental health resources. We need to have national and local conversations about how our nation can foster healing and unity in light of serious divisions related to race, economic disparities and the influx of new immigrants into our communities.

As faith communities, we also must enter into conversations about how we can be better neighbors in service to the common good. And, we need to look at our own lives, too. In this Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis, I encourage every person to ask themselves:

  • What is one thing I can do in my neighborhood, school or community to foster reassurance instead of fear, unity instead of division, and reconciliation instead of conflict?
  • How can I best support law enforcement professionals as they work to keep my community safe, often at risk to their own lives?
  • How can I eliminate racist attitudes and prejudices that may have taken root in my own heart and mind?
  • How can I build better relationships with people who don’t look, act or believe as I do?

May our prayer and actions be signs of hope as we strive to build a culture of life with dignity and respect for all.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Bishop Donald J. Kettler

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