Open Letter to Emanuel AME Church
To: Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, S.C.
From: The Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma
26 June 2015
What "goes without saying" needs to be said. People of conscience everywhere are shocked and disturbed by the horrible, hateful shootings that occurred in your congregation and our sympathy is unquestionable. Our hearts and minds, however, tell us that we need to do more than just be sympathetic.
As children, nearly all of us heard the advice that "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me." All of us should have learned that such advice is NOT valid. Words can hurt. Words can incite hatred. Words can lead to violence. History has shown this progression over and over again. What a person has the legal right to say may be wrong in all other ways.
The violent actions of the young man in question undoubtedly involved the combined effects of some ingrained propensity toward hatred, given significant impetus and direction by the hateful, ignorant, and prejudiced words of others.
The important question, then, is "What can we in Oklahoma do usefully to go beyond sympathy? What can we do in our communities not only to help heal a shared wound, but to bring us together more effectively and to help prevent future acts of hatred?"
We of The Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma have obligations, obligations that should be pursued by all of us.
We have the obligation to be vigilant in recognizing words of hate and prejudice and making it clear that, regardless of legal right of expression, they are wrong and should stop. We have the obligation to remind all of us of the need for mutual respect and true equality. We have the obligation to work not just for tolerance and coexistence, but to work together across lines of race, religion, ethnicity, and gender, going beyond coexistence in seeking to know each other better and to improve our communities.
The pursuit of these obligations is not new to us; it has been and is real and concrete. At times such as this we need to pledge to ourselves that we will continue these ideals and projects and that we will intensify our efforts in Oklahoma as we hope others will in their communities.
Please accept these heart-felt words.
Carl J. Rubenstein, MD
President, The Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma
Noel Jacobs, PhD
Vice-President, The Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma
cc: Editor, The Oklahoman