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Going beyond 'thoughts and prayers'

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“I could only understand those mass murders if the perpetrators were under the influence of drugs.”

The remarks came up during an online meeting with friends from different cities in Latin America. It took me by surprise because the speaker was a friend who lives in Caracas, Venezuela, one of the 10 most violent cities in the world. But the reality is that, despite the crime plaguing the Venezuelan capital, no one has entered a church or a school, or broken into a festival, armed to the teeth, to kill people left and right. Here, however, it happens.

Mass killings in the United States have reached epidemic proportions. We should not ignore their frequency, because we risk becoming numb to violence. In the short span of a week, the nation’s bishops had to issue not one but three statements related to the murders at a festival in Gilroy, California, at a store in El Paso, Texas, and in front of a nightclub in Dayton, Ohio. In their messages, they ask for legislation and concrete actions to put an end to these murders. The Catholic leaders do not send useless tweets about simple “thoughts and prayers” — as so many political leaders do whenever a mass murder takes place — then accept contributions and ignore the urgent need to find solutions to the crisis. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops continues to advocate for responsible weapon laws and more resources to address the root causes of violence. They asked the President and Congress to set aside political interests and find a way to protect lives.

On the other hand, learning that the massacre in El Paso was a hate crime committed by a white supremacist, felt like a sack of salt poured over a huge and deep gash. It is time to accept that racism and white supremacy are not inventions or exaggerations, as some commentators want us to believe; they are like cancerous tumors threatening the safety of everyone in our country. If we want to heal from a disease, we take steps to achieve that goal. Similarly, we cannot remain staring as if in a daze to the threat that racism and white supremacy represent for the well-being of the community.

Last July, FBI director Christopher A. Wray said before the Senate Judiciary Committee that most domestic terrorism cases investigated by the agency were motivated by “one version of what could be called white supremacy.” He also admitted that most suspects arrested for terrorism this year are white supremacists.

For them, the so-called “browning of the United States” due to the decline in the white population and the increase in others, particularly immigrants, produces a sense of displacement that manifests itself in a fear of a “white genocide.”

According to reports from the Southern Poverty Law Center, in Montgomery, Alabama, there are more than 1,000 racist hate groups in the U.S. The number increases every year. The common denominator justifying their violence is the belief that this is a white nation invaded by immigrants who are not white, and whose birth rates are higher (hence the racist epithet “breeders”). Remember how the author of the massacre of El Paso used the pretext of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas” to justify his acts.

“Demographic composition continues to evolve and the normal population growth of this nation, founded by immigrants, is ongoing,” said Marisol Acosta, of Austin, Texas, an expert on the impact, recovery and prevention of trauma .

Although white people in general embrace equality and human rights as values, there are those who feel threatened by other racial or ethnic groups. Acosta warned that the clash of extremist views among communities that could not respect each other, discuss their differences and find common goals, have resulted in wars and genocides.

“Our nation is being threatened when political and even religious leaders use a rhetoric that is divisive, hateful and discriminatory against diverse groups,” said Acosta, who admits that she frequently turns to her faith to find solutions that would help people affected by the trauma of violence.

“As faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, and as Americans who cherish the values of freedom, equality and human rights of this nation founded by immigrants, how can we respond to extremist groups and acts of terror? Let's do it modeling the way of Jesus, who took time to pray and think about those who suffer,” she said. “However, he did not just leave people with thoughts and prayers. He turned to action by preaching, teaching, feeding and healing. The action of Jesus transformed the world.”

Comments from readers

Neida Petez - 08/12/2019 11:59 AM
No new info. I still pray. What is the suggested action?
Valli Leone - 08/12/2019 11:17 AM
Thanks be to God for this amazing, Spirit-filled message. This is why I love my Church and I love reading articles by faith-filled disciples like you, my dear sister. You made my day. Jesus never fails! He loves you, and so do I! Keep up the great work! ✝️⚓️💜
Beatriz Bezos - 08/12/2019 10:54 AM
Mrs. Tirado-Torres, Thanks for your article. Seems that the whole premise of your writing is incorrect. As soon as you mention that in Venezuela there are no individuals "armed to the teeth" killing innocents, I must stop you. In Venezuela, since 2012, the government enacted a private gun ownership ban. The reason for the ban was quite simple - control the citizens and prevent the government to be overturned. Also, another concern is your lack of details on the Dayton, Ohio killings. Are you aware the perpetrator was a leftist, antifa follower? Hate is hate Mrs. Tirado- Torres. Making it political and emphasizing on the white- supremacist angle is not correct. Both outliers, leftists and supremacist are horrible. As you probably agree, the causes of terrorism is the absence of Jesus and breakdown of family, among other issues including mental illness and lack of parental overseeing. Not the gun. Did you see last week when there were another two attacks, this time using knives? People also died, but guess is not important since it does not follow your rhetoric. As Catholics we should pray for those harboring hate in their souls. Last week, EWTN dedicated the prayer of the day to the terrorists- that they find peace and reject the destructive feelings taking root in their hearts. I found this invitation thought provoking and invite all to follow.

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