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Tag: church arsons

With a photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as its backdrop, this quote from Dr. King reads, "If we are to have peace on earth . . . our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective."

Freedom of religion

Monday’s post was partially inspired by a column I saw in the newspaper. Today’s post is, too. Same issue of the Kansas City Star, actually. But this one originated in The Times of IsraelSorry to say, it has a pretty dark tone. I’m talking about freedom of religion.

Yes, I mean the clause in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that goes, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” 

This illustrated quote from Thomas Jefferson uses a portrait of him, alongside his words, "The constitutional freedom of religion is the most unalienable and sacred of all human rights."

But I’m also talking about more than that. The need for–and the attacks against–individuals’ freedom of religion is a worldwide issue. And 2019 was a challenging year for those who support the ideabecause it was a pretty scary time to assemble for worship.

Fire in the holy places

I could approach this topic of attacks on places of worship from several directionsWarterrorismhate crimesshootingsbombingsarson (whether intentional or negligent) . . . Some took worshipers’ lives. Some “only” took historic buildingsholy books, or other sacred objects.

But all took peace of mind. All took traditions and cherished ways of being. And all scarred people’s lives.

St. Mary Baptist Church was the first of three historically black churches burned near Opelousas, Louisiana by an arsonist now charged with hate crimes. (photo by Natalie Obregon/NBC News).
St. Mary Baptist Church was the first of three historically black churches burned near Opelousas, Louisiana by an arsonist now charged with hate crimes. (photo by Natalie Obregon/NBC News).
Firefighters eye the smoldering remains of the Adas Israel Congregation's 118-year-old synagogue, which went up in flames this year. Although not the result of a hate crime, it was an example of irresponsible behavior that resulted in devastating loss. (Photo from MPR/Dan Kraker, via Jewish Telegraphic Agency).
Firefighters eye the smoldering remains of the Adas Israel Congregation’s 118-year-old synagogue, which went up in flames this year. Although not the result of a hate crime, it was an example of irresponsible behavior that resulted in devastating loss. (Photo from MPR/Dan Kraker, via Jewish Telegraphic Agency).
Assailants burned statues and holy books in a southern Sindh Province Hindu temple. The brazen attack sparked censure from the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan on his Twitter feed. Police officials promised an independent investigation, while the advisor to a local Hindu council demanded greater security for Hindu temples. (Photo from Imran Khan/Times of India).
Assailants burned statues and holy books in a southern Sindh Province Hindu temple. The brazen attack sparked censure from the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan on his Twitter feed. Police officials promised an independent investigation, while the advisor to a local Hindu council demanded greater security for Hindu temples. (Photo from Imran Khan/Times of India).
With a bonfire in the background, this quote from boxing coach Cus D'Amato says, "Fear is like fire. It can cook for you. it can teat your house. Or it can burn you down."
Without respect for others, we all live in peril from that third kind of fire.

Bullets, Bombs, and other Explosives

It isn’t only fire that’s been a threat to holy places this year. Even more destructive to the lives of worshipers is violent intent. People have fired hundreds of rounds, or lobbed bombs and grenades into sacred spaces. Into peaceful crowds of people just practicing their faith

It’s hard for me to grapple with the depth of dysfunction and twisted logic that makes such an act seem rational to anyone. But the evidence that it can be rationalized was overwhelming this year.

A soldier stares at the destruction of a Roman Catholic cathedral in Jolo, Philippines. Two suicide bombers detonated their explosives during Mass last January (photo from WESMINCOM Armed Forces of the Philippines Via AP/Times of Israel)
A soldier stares at the destruction of a Roman Catholic cathedral in Jolo, Philippines. Two suicide bombers detonated their explosives during Mass last January (photo from WESMINCOM Armed Forces of the Philippines Via AP/Times of Israel)
In a possible retaliation for the cathedral bombing, two Muslim scholars died and four others suffered injuries in a grenade attack on a mosque in Zamboanga. (Photo from Armed Forces of Philippines via AP/Al Jazeera)
In a possible retaliation for the cathedral bombing, two Muslim scholars died and four others suffered injuries in a grenade attack on a mosque in Zamboanga. (Photo from Armed Forces of Philippines via AP/Al Jazeera)
Mourners outside the Al-Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, where a white supremacist gunned down 40 people on March 15 (Photo from Agence France-Presse/Reuters via VOA)
Mourners outside the Al-Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, where a white supremacist gunned down 40 people on March 15 (Photo from Agence France-Presse/Reuters via VOA)
Bombs went off on Easter Sunday during services in several locations in Sri Lanka. Here's what was left of the sanctuary at St. Sebastian's Church, where 104 people died. (Photo from AP/Chamila Karunarathne via The Times of Israel)
Bombs went off on Easter Sunday during services in several locations in Sri Lanka. Here’s what was left of the sanctuary at St. Sebastian’s Church, where 104 people died. (Photo from AP/Chamila Karunarathne via The Times of Israel)
On the final day of Passover, a gunman opened fire on congregants at the Chabad of Poway Synagogue (California). This picture shows a makeshift memorial set up across the street. (Photo from AP/Gregory Bull via The Times of Israel).
On the final day of Passover, a gunman opened fire on congregants at the Chabad of Poway Synagogue (California). This picture shows a makeshift memorial set up across the street. (Photo from AP/Gregory Bull via The Times of Israel).

Can’t we make it stop?

Are you exhausted by the carnage yet? We’ve only made it to the end of April 2019, with our latter set of photos above. There’s been lots of violence since then, but I think we all more than get the point

There are dangerous people out there. They have guns, bombs, grenades, and flames–and they’re not afraid to use themDon’t seem the least bit ashamed to attack innocent people in worship services, although any such act is shameful and cowardly. They don’t care if a place has historic significance, or if it means something to others, although that attitude is invariably brutish and self-serving. Nothing within themselves seems to hold them back, and no security system will stop them all. 

But we can and must do better than this

We must support broader access to mental health care and social services–not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it can help defuse the human hatred that sets off all-too-literal bombs. Keep pushing back till commonsense curbs put access to deadly weapons of mass destruction out of unauthorized reach. Strive for greater educational and economic opportunity for all, since we know that inequity breeds resentment and hatred. Stay alert for problems festering in our midst, and fearlessly call them out.

Freedom of religion isn’t only an American concept. It’s a basic universal human right (see Article 18)If we don’t uphold and defend it as a right for all, then it is secure for none of us.

With a photo of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as its backdrop, this quote from Dr. King reads, "If we are to have peace on earth . . . our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective."

IMAGE CREDITS: 

Many thanks to AZ Quotes for the wisdom from Thomas Jefferson. I am indebted to NBC News and Natalie Obregon for the photo of St. Mary Baptist Church in Louisiana; to Jewish Telegraphic Agency for the MPR/Dan Kraker photo of the burned remains of Adas Israel Congregation‘s synagogue; and to Imran Khan, via The Times of India for the photo from the temple in Kumb. I’m grateful for the quote about fear and fire by boxing coach Cus D’Amato, from Authentic Traveling with Andrew Scott

Many thanks to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Associated Press, via Times of Israel and via Al Jazeera, for the photos of aftermaths from the two Philippine bombings. I’m also grateful to Agence France-Presse/Reuters via VOA for the photo from New Zealand, and to the AP and Chamila Karunarathne via The Times of India, for the photo from inside the sanctuary of St. Sebastian’s. Thanks also to AP and Gregory Bull via The Times of Israel, for the photo from Poway, CA.

Finally, I deeply appreciate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s wisdom, and the image from The Peace Alliance that gives it a dramatic presentation.

Stronger than one building

The Artdog Image(s) of Interest 

Shotgun, Third Ward #1, 1966, by John T. Biggers.


John T. Biggers painted this image, Shotgun, Third Ward #1, in 1966–yet to me it hauntingly resonates with recent headlines.

Likely inspired by a rash of arsons in black churches during the early-to-mid-1960s, Biggers chose to focus on the community, rather than the sensationalism of the fire.

Then as now, the church is more than just a building, although churches were a central gathering place for the African American community during the Civil Rights era. Thus, attacks on black churches were attacks on civil rights activism, as well.

The word Shotgun in the title refers to the houses, not the weapon–and not, as popularly alleged, because a fired shell would travel through from one end to the other. Indeed, the African word “shogon,” which means “house of God,” is more likely the origin of the term (bringing us full-circle back to the church).

Shotguns, 1987, by John T. Biggers

The narrow, rectangular design, in which several rooms in a row open directly into one another (with no hallway) was popular for several decades, especially in the South. By the 1960s, however, “Shotgun houses” were associated with poor people, especially impoverished African Americans. Biggers returned to the image of the shotgun house for his iconic 1987 painting Shotguns

IMAGES: Many thanks to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, for the image of Shotgun, Third Ward #1, and to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) blog, for the image of Shotguns. I deeply appreciate both.

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