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The Resistance Prays

October 28, 2018
By Rev. Ashley Whitaker

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Today's Top Story

Forward: “Pittsburgh Shooting Is A Reminder: Jews And Muslims Are In This Together” 

NBC News: “Accused Pittsburgh gunman posted online about HIAS, an agency known for work with refugees” 

  • Forward: “The 46-year-old alleged killer of at least eleven people in a Pittsburgh synagogue seemed most angry at Jews for one particular reason: They were helping Muslim refugees flee to safety in America.”

  • NBC News: The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, or HIAS, known for its resettlement work in the United States and internationally, is one of the oldest refugee protection agencies in the country. “As our president likes to say, ‘We used to help refugees because they were Jewish but now we help refugees because we're Jewish,’” said Bill Swersey, a spokesman for HIAS.

Content Warning and Author’s Note: The Forward article inspires the substance of this devotional, but the alleged shooter’s racist comments are quoted within. The NBC News article is provided for those who would learn more about HIAS without such quotes.

When immigrants live in your land with you, you must not cheat them. Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens. You must love them as yourself, because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.”
Leviticus 19:33-34, CEB
Love Them as Yourself

In his posts on a fringe social media site favored by white supremacists, the alleged shooter at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh had fixated on HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. HIAS is an official voluntary agency for the State Department, helping resettle refugees across the country. HIAS used to focus on Jewish refugees but began working with non-Jewish immigrants about twenty years ago (giving context to the quote from HIAS’ president highlighted in today’s lead).

The alleged shooter subscribed to conspiracy theories claiming that Jews were responsible for the civil rights revolution of the mid-1900s and that Jewish agencies like HIAS are now responsible for bringing Muslim terrorists into the United States. Of course, both of these claims are based in hatred and bias, not reality.

In the article from Forward, Kane writes: “[The alleged shooter] and his white supremacist brethren are, of course, wrong that Jews control global events. But they are right about one thing: Most American Jews stand in support of American Muslims, opposed the Trump administration’s cruel Muslim travel ban, and welcome in refugees from Muslim-majority countries.”

Kane also says, “[These] rantings should serve as a stark reminder that even some American Jews have forgot: The safety of we Jews in America is bound up in the safety of Muslims in America.”

This reminder is applicable for not only Jews in America, but also all people, regardless of faith or nationality. This reminder leads me to think about the South African wisdom of Ubuntu, popularized by Desmond Tutu, which says that “a person is only a person in the context of other persons: my humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.”

There are many passages in Scripture, in both testaments, which speak to this Ubuntu and to how God calls us to treat one another. Refugees, immigrants, foreigners, and the impoverished merit special attention and care, not vitriol, hatred, and violence.


As surely as we pray for all those affected by this hatred and gun violence, we must work to make sure it ends, and soon!

Support HIAS and other refugee resettlement agencies, and support agencies working for commonsense gun safety legislation, like Everytown for Gun Safety.

God of all, we pray for those who have lost their lives in this tragedy. May their memories be for a blessing. We pray that our national idolatry would come to a swift and certain end: a worship of unfettered gun rights, an enshrinement of hate speech as “free speech,” and the elevation of bigotry and hatred to highest virtues rather than basest sin. Stir our spirits to passion, enliven us with your Word, and strengthen our hands and feet to swift action in your name. Amen.
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