By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli
On March 15, halfway around the world another horrific act of violence and hatred marred our world. Two mosques in New Zealand were viciously attacked and 50 innocent people were senselessly killed and countless others wounded because of their Muslim faith.
This particular act of hatred is even more depraved and despicable because it happened in a sacred house of worship. Traditionally all houses of worship are supposed to be safe havens for people who want to pray, rest and find peace.
Once again we are reminded of the infectious hate that wounds, blinds, divides and often kills. This hate is being perpetuated by a small group of narrow-minded people who have little or no respect for the sanctity of all human life, no matter what your color, your race, your nationality, your sexual orientation or your socioeconomic status.
In a free society, respect and inclusiveness of all people is foundational. We must continually give voice to these vital principles. Our nation was founded on religious freedom — not for certain religions, but for all religions! All houses of worship must be respected as well as everyone’s holy book.
This unfortunate tragedy in New Zealand reminds us that we still have so much more work to do in the areas of tolerance, respect, inclusiveness, acceptance and diversity on every level.
Words matter, especially when they come from people in authority and leadership. We all must confront hateful rhetoric, especially when and where it erupts. It should not matter who is using it. Hateful rhetoric is hateful rhetoric. No one is exempt from being held accountable in this regard.
We cannot pick and choose who we call out on their hateful speech. Hatefulness has no boundaries, no color, no class, no religion, no sexual orientation or economic status.
When our synagogues, churches and mosques are violated with hate and violence, it must be a call to action for all caring human beings everywhere. We must have the courage to stand up and confront the violent hate-mongers head-on.
Our silence is destructive. Unfortunately, it is seen by some as an affirmation of this vile behavior. Our message must be loud and clear. There are no exceptions, no excuses! There is no room in our country for violent, hateful destructive rhetoric and people.
We need to have the courage to work more aggressively and advocate for positive change in our country. We can no longer excuse the violent reprehensible and hateful behavior that erupted in New Zealand. Actions speak louder than words!
Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.