What began as the hope of a dozen clergy leaders to relieve the grief of their community by calling for common sense measures to prevent gun violence has grown into a national outcry by thousands of religious leaders.
I was honored to join with clergy from all 50 states in standing with our brothers and sisters from Newtown to send an open letter to our senators this week to take long overdue action to prevent gun violence.
"To see the rising incidence of gun violence from Chicago to Newtown, Camden to Aurora, Detroit to Tucson – and how that violence particularly targets the young and the poor, especially in America's urban communities - and yet to refuse to take the steps we know would reduce harm is a violation of religious values so severe that we are compelled to speak out," the Newtown clergy wrote.
That is why more than 4,000 faith leaders signed the letter. It's why clergy are mobilizing and organizing in ways not seen in a generation. It's why congregations across the country are taking part in a national Gun Violence Prevention Sabbath this weekend, and why faith leaders appeared in a public service announcement demanding our nation's leaders take action.
When the spotlight fades and the public attention has moved on to the next hot topic, we – the clergy –are still there, helping to pick up the pieces. As the Newtown clergy so eloquently reminded us, "it is we who are asked to answer why this happened, to bind up the brokenhearted, and to explain why nothing in Newtown or our many communities will ever be the same again."
We know that nothing any of us do will bring back the victims murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School or any of the 2,600 killed since.
But make no mistake about it – ending gun violence is a responsibility that we all must embrace and struggle to own. It is a personal responsibility, a communal responsibility, a social responsibility and a national responsibility.
We must do all we can to prevent the next tragedy.
We've seen some success: Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee affirmed crucial legislation to prosecute straw purchasers and end gun trafficking. On Tuesday, they passed two more bills out of committee – one to create universal background checks and the other focused on school safety.
Today they are expected to vote on the critically important assault weapons ban, which is essential to building a truly comprehensive gun violence prevention package.
Whatever happens today, our work as clergy is far from over. We must continue to push for targeted investments and proven strategies to reduce the gun violence that plagues our cities every day. Our work continues until legislation banning assault weapons, creating an enforceable universal background check system, ending gun trafficking and mandating the prosecution of straw purchasers is passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President.
But beyond legislation, as we approach Passover and Holy Week when so many of us mark the promise of a renewal of life, we must re-commit ourselves to stepping out of the pulpit after our sermons are concluded to live out our calls to be peacemakers and repair the world.
My prayer is that with courage and boldness, we may open our eyes, our ears and our hearts to act, to build lifelines to healing and to be peacemakers in our time.