Boston and Kansas killings unite us

Story highlights

  • Writers: Like Boston bombings, Kansas shootings meant to divide people along lines of faith
  • Rabbi and minister from Boston remember how their community came together after bombings
  • Writers: Hate crimes don't divide; they bring all faiths together bonded by humanity

On Sunday, just two days before the Boston Marathon bombing anniversary, we witnessed yet another act of unspeakable violence aimed at dividing our communities along the lines of faith.

The motivation for the shootings outside Kansas City is still under investigation, but we know that a white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader is accused of shooting people outside a Jewish community center and Village Shalom, a retirement home.

Three people died in what is just the most recent deeply misguided act of violence aimed at severing the values each and every American cherishes most deeply. As we remember the lives taken a year ago in Boston, we also mourn and pray for the victims and their families in Kansas.

One of us is a pastor and the other a rabbi of congregations in and near Boston. We both had identical reactions when we first learned of the Boston Marathon bombings last year. Was this another 9/11? Whom did we know who might be directly affected -- runners, first responders, spectators on the finish line? We worried about our colleagues at Old South Church, directly on the finish line, and Trinity Church in Copley Square, one block away. Similar to what we imagine interfaith leaders in Kansas started to do Sunday, we immediately began to call people and try to determine how to minister to our congregations and the city at large.

We had both been involved in building relationships across religious lines for years; under the auspices of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization and our individual efforts, we had joined together Christians, Muslims and Jews to build bridges of respect, tolerance and affection.

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In the year that has followed the bombing, Temple Israel of Boston was honored to host Imam Suhaib Webb of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center for a special service celebrating the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. Webb was joined at the temple by more than 100 members of his own congregation and by exceptional clergy and congregants from Boston's Christian Community in a joint celebration of the vision of life.

Webb will also be the featured speaker at Old South Church's evening of remembrance on Tuesday night, which will honor the victims and brave first responders. The church will be filled with members of every faith from greater Boston.

If the goal of the tragedy in Boston or the most recent act of despicable violence in Kansas is to sow fear and to divide us against one another, then our own lived experience is a testament to their failure. Last year's senseless attack has been repudiated by our congregations in the strongest and most profound way possible, and in the process we are stronger than ever.

Looking back, we cannot help but recognize that by a combination of heroism, compassion, faith and will, the tragedy of the marathon bombing has brought us closer together and strengthened the ties between our communities.

On the anniversary of last year's terrible attack and the violence in Kansas on Sunday, all of our congregations stand united in praying for the victims, their families and those who were grievously injured. We cannot bring back those people who were so senselessly taken, and we know that the void left by their loss can never truly be filled. We cannot restore lost limbs or heal the physical wounds.

However, we can choose a better future for ourselves and for our nation -- one grounded in our common humanity, and in our expressions of faith and hope for the future, whether we are Muslims, Christians, Jews, adherents of other faiths or secular citizens who share a commitment to repair and renew the health and well-being of our cities, nation and the world.

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