Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice joins the voices of all Wisconsinites who are appalled by the violence that plagued our nation in the last week; horrors piled upon horrors. Two more black lives lost to excessive use of force by police, followed by the massacre of five police officers and the wounding of seven more while they were policing at a peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration. We no longer recognize our own country.
As a clergy person, I search for words of comfort, words of wisdom, some way to help our community make sense of the senseless. I confess I am at a loss. But a wise person said to me, “That’s because this isn’t a time for comfort. It’s a time for action.”
There are actions to be taken, and act we must! We must compel our legislators to enact strict gun control laws. We must provide better access to mental health services. And we must insist on community oversight of our police, better training in racial justice, in methods of de-escalating rather than escalating a difficult situation, and in appropriate and inappropriate use of force. We must work together to rebuild trust in our police, so that they can do their jobs safely, and so all people can begin to view the police as partners in keeping our communities safe, rather than as threats.
Specifically, we must heed the call to action from NAACP President Cornell William Brooks, who said “What will put us on the path to justice is the passage of the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act (LETIA) and the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA). Radical reform of policing practices, policies, and laws at all levels must be made — immediately — because the current system is taking too many lives.”
There is much work to be done. It can be overwhelming and often it is difficult to see where, or if, we can make a difference. At these times, let us remember the words of the late Elie Wiesel, “…Even in the midst of darkness, it is possible to create light and share warmth with one another; that even on the edge of the abyss, it is possible to dream exalted dreams of compassion; that it is possible to be free and strengthen the ideals of freedom, even within prison walls; that even in exile, friendship becomes an anchor.”
We urge all people of faith to join with those individuals and organizations, including NAACP, Madison-Area Urban Ministry, Wisconsin Council of Churches, Black Lives Matter, and others, working on issues of racism and gun violence, to strengthen the push for change. We mourn with the families of Alton Sterling, Philandro Castile, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarippa. We yearn for justice and we pray for sanity and peace for our nation and our world.