On July 5th two white police officers shot and killed Alton Sterling, an African American man, outside of a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The shooting, captured on video, has fueled protests and outrage across the country. The next day, the shooting death of another African American, Philando Castile, by a white officer in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, has garnered the same response. Castile’s girlfriend broadcast his dying breaths live on Facebook.
A peaceful demonstration in downtown Dallas, Texas turned violent on July 7th when a sniper (or snipers) opened fire on police officers on the streets, killing five officers and wounding several others, including civilians.
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance joins the Presbyterian Church (USA) in grieving with the three communities affected by public violence this week. PDA has reached out to the Presbytery of South Louisiana, the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area, and Grace Presbytery to offer assistance and support as they begin to participate in responding to those affected and to the community as a whole. Deployment of National Response Team members skilled in trauma response and emotional and spiritual pastoral care has been offered to the presbyteries, who are assessing their needs at this time. Initial community grants have also been offered to each presbytery to support their congregations’ response in these events, and are in process at this moment.
As you pray for the loved ones of those killed and injured, please also prayerfully consider ways to engage your community in addressing the issue of gun violence.
The following suggestions are shared from the incident at Virginia Tech.
- Hold a prayer vigil for your congregation.
- Organize an ecumenical prayer service in your community.
- Create opportunities for people to talk about the shooting.
- During worship, include prayers for the victims, survivors, families, emergency response personnel and those who will minister to the community in the aftermath of the violence.
- Remember in your prayers the communities impacted by previous shootings. The recent event may evoke painful reminders and flashbacks of the violence they experienced.
- Work with your local officials, encouraging them to implement violence prevention programs.
- Organize a meeting with the ministerial alliance, ecumenical and interfaith associations and local human service agencies to develop a preparedness response/plan should your community be directly affected by such a tragedy.
The Rev. Dr. Laurie Kraus, who directs Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, said “The intensification of acts of public violence in our nation during the past month—in Orlando, Baton Rouge, St. Paul and Dallas—are heightening a sense of threat across all our communities, straining the fabric of our common life. Communities that have experienced systemic discrimination have been particularly impacted. We are grateful for Presbyterian congregations and councils who are leaning into this painful and dangerous context with a willingness to walk alongside those who have been wounded, to join with others seeking justice for those who are oppressed or unfairly targeted, to create common holy space within which hard issues can be addressed among neighbors, and to participate in the restoration of healthy communities. PDA is proud to be able to participate in this work through supporting those stricken by these human caused disasters.”
A lament following violence in St. Paul, Baton Rouge, and Dallas
July 8, 2016
God of our weary years and our silent tears,
We are shattered by the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile
Devastated by the loss of five Dallas police officers and the wounding of seven more,
gunned down while protecting a citizens’ peaceful protest
We are horrified, angry, despairing
We struggle with a yearning for justice and judgment--
a knowledge that our prayers alone are not enough
a hurt that is beyond speech
a fear that we do not know a way forward that will help
an emptiness: we have been here before, too many times,
and we know we will walk this bloodied path again.
What can we do, with such fear and anger and longing,
that can bind us together, rather than further tear apart the fabric of our common life?
We are failing one another, and we are failing You:
our Maker, our Mercy, our Justice, our Peace.
We pray for our neighbors in St. Paul, in Baton Rouge, in Dallas
and for our whole broken and heartbroken nation
in this hard season of violence, death and distrust
each one lost is a child made in Your image.
each survivor is beloved to You
each afflicted community is part of your commonwealth.
We lift our prayers for each life lost, each family bereaved,
each neighborhood whose fabric has been violently torn asunder by bullets and hatred and fear.
We pray for ourselves, that this hurt, this outrage, this yearning for justice
will not fade from our minds before our hearts are broken open
by Your passion for mercy, justice, and love.
Restore our hope, our heart,
our sense of the possibility of holiness and wholeness in your creation.
Tend the fires of our rage so that they burn for justice and warm hearts that have grown cold.
Make the waters of our tears nourish the river that flows through the city of God,
and the tree of life that is for the healing of the nations.
In the name of Jesus, we pray.
The Rev. Dr. Laurie A. Kraus
Coordinator, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance