By: Rev. Haywood Wiggins, PICO National Network
As each one of us tries to make sense of the shootings in Arizona, we offer our heartfelt prayers for those who were killed and injured. Our souls weep at so much senseless bloodshed.
Yet even amid unspeakable violence we know that the love that binds us together as a community is stronger than the hate that would divide us.
Dorwin Stoddard died shielding his wife from bullets. Daniel Hernandez ran towards the gunshots. He used what he learned in high school to
triage the victims and save the life of Congresswoman Giffords. After being shot Patricia Maisch wrestled a magazine of bullets away from the shooter, averting even more killing. They represent our better selves.
Each week PICO leaders across the country make smaller but important sacrifices to build a vibrant democracy. We organize against violence in all its forms. We take our children to events like the one hosted by Representative Giffords in order to teach them that democracy is a sacred gift. How tragic that a child would be killed at such a place and time.
The overwhelming response to the shootings shows how desperately the American people want to resolve our differences without resorting to
violence. Now we have an opportunity to walk back from the brink, to learn from the example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who treasured the
humanity of his opponents, even seeking to transform those with whom he
disagreed through words and deeds of love.
Take the pledge for our better selves and forward to your friends.
Last March Representative Giffords called on community leaders to denounce violent rhetoric after the front door of her office was shattered following her vote for health reform. She warned that violent
threats have consequences. Yet we failed to speak out loudly enough, and for that we apologize.
The Prophet Nehemiah and our own history as a nation teach us that any serious effort to transform a community toward justice is open to being
ridiculed and threatened with violence. PICO and CCO are committed to creating a
safe space for people to participate in democracy. We urge the U.S. Capitol Police to increase security at public events with Members of
Congress without impinging on the ability of ordinary people to interact with their representatives.
We commit to pray for Representative Giffords and the other victims and their families, for the attacker, for our country, our elected officials, and all of the diversity that makes us a great nation.
We also recommit to fostering civil debate on health care, immigration, violence prevention, and the other issues that matter to our families. In coming weeks we will continue to host public events to highlight the
need to create a just health care system.