It is shocking that our nation has just experienced the worst anti-semitic attack in our history. One would hope that by this point in time our nation would be so much better than this. Clearly, that is not the case.

The Connecticut Council for Interreligious Understanding calls upon every leader and every person to face up to the meaning of the events in Pittsburgh. The murders at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh make it clear that our country is awash in hatred and primed for violence. This is not the country we want or expect.

Our leaders look at this violence and wonder where the guards with more guns were. We look at this situation, and too many others, and wonder where the understanding, acceptance, and mutual respect has gone. We need a change in the national attitude, and we need leaders who will take us there.

No one should suffer violence because of their religion. No one should be subject to fear because of the way they call out to God. No one should have to depend on a guard with a gun in order for them to go about their daily activities.

It is not more guards we need. It is more understanding.

The members of CCIU call upon all people, of all religions and no religions, to examine our culture, and to examine our hearts. Where there is ignorance and fear of an “other” — within ourselves or that we see among our neighbors — we ask each of us to fill that void of ignorance with knowledge. We must address the cancer of irrational fear with the therapy of increased understanding and sober reasoning.

And we call upon our leaders to stop exploiting the fear of others in order to seek political success. History has shown us where that pathway leads — to exploitation, more violence, and tragedy for all. CCIU believes that our country was founded on better principles than this. We demand the best from our officials, not the worst.

Terry Schmitt is Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Interreligous Understanding.

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