Rev. Bruce Garrison on the New Zealand shootings
CIC board member Bruce Garrison was asked to contribute a few words to the memorial for the 50 victims of the shootings in Christchurch, NZ
My name is Bruce Garrison. I am a pastor at the church, The Dwelling Place, and Vice-Chair of the Board for the Center for Interfaith Cooperation. It is my honor and distinct privilege to be able to share a few thoughts this evening.
Early Friday morning, my wife told me that I needed to turn on the news, that something horrible had happened in New Zealand. I went to the BBC and saw the first reports of that awful tragedy. In those initial moments, I felt one of the most palpable senses of loss that I have ever felt. It took me a moment of reflection to understand why. But I believe the reason I felt it so deeply is that for me “Muslim” is not just a vague descriptive of some religious group. Rather, Muslims are people that I am privileged to call my friends.
As I watched the reports, I immediately thought of my friend, Imam Ahmed—we had just had Magoo’s Pizza two days before, and had already been texting each other about a different matter earlier that morning. I thought of my friend, Aliya, with whom I am working on various projects for the Muslim community, and my friend, Faryal, who I work side-by-side with on interfaith matters—and who frequently gives me a hard time because I always seem to find an excuse to show up at her mosque on potluck nights.
I thought of my good friend, Ashhar, and all the people at the Al Salam mosque. Our church and that mosque have worked together to feed the homeless, to work with a struggling elementary school, and to impact our community in other ways. That Friday night, my wife, Debbie, and I went to the mosque, because we just wanted to be with this community whose humanity is irretrievably intertwined with ours. (And yes, it did happen to be the night of the potluck.)
The Christian theologian, Walter Brueggemann, states that the task of a prophet is to “nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception that is alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us.” In this dark and stormy season where hate seems to have been given free rein, we must be steadfastly confident that things can and will be different; by our own visible actions we must shine a light that encourages others to imagine that there is a better way, a higher way— a way of acceptance and respect, a way of love.
Several years ago John Lennon asked us to “Imagine” a better world, a world that lives in a state of peace, compassion, and unity. At times like this, it seems that we haven’t gotten very far in realizing that dream. But this evening, in the face of this great evil, I would ask you to embody this prophetic role and begin to live with a new consciousness and a new perception toward every human being that you live with, work with, and study with—a perception that sees every single individual as made in the image of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful, and therefore worthy of your highest regard.
In spite of events like the massacre in New Zealand, I still choose to stand with Martin Luther King Jr. and his statement of undying faith, when he declared, ”I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”