Vigil for Peace: A prayerful response to violence in our land

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Des Moines
Remarks by Connie Ryan
Executive Director, Interfaith Alliance of Iowa
July 12, 2016


I’m feeling like we have been here before. Perhaps it is because we have. Just four weeks ago I stood in this same spot along with Bishops and leaders for a prayer vigil following the mass shootings in Orlando. Many of you were here, too.

I said then… We come together as people of faith and no faith to find solace, refuge… to find understanding and to make sense of the world again.

160712-PrayerVigil-collageI said… As part of the interfaith community, we send our love to the victims, the wounded, and the families… As part of the interfaith community, we walk hand-in-hand with our sisters, brothers, and friends in the LGBTQIA community… we stand with our Muslim neighbors who have received the unjust and unrelenting wrath of so many.

We named the names of the dead and we said, no more. Yet here we are, again.

When will there be change?

On social media and on television, I see people actually arguing that police killing black men is not a matter of race, even though there is an ever-growing list of young black men needlessly murdered by police. I hear people say “if he hadn’t broken the law…” “if he was just respectful to the police…” “if he just…” As if that justifies a man’s death.

And I listen to moms and dads who have to give “the talk” to their black sons. A talk I did not ever have to give to my son and, the reality is that in my white privilege it never even occurred to me that it was necessary. But it is for those moms and dads.

And then, when five police officers are murdered while on duty and protecting people for exercising their right of free speech and assembly, I read posts arguing the same old talking points that guns don’t kill people; people kill people. Or, if only more people in the crowd were carrying…

Carrying what?

Racism. Police bias. Hate. Guns. Violence. Police safety. There are so many issues tied up in the shock and anger of last week.

When will there be change?

Perhaps there will be change when we take seriously the idea that we all are responsible and we must stand up and speak out. Perhaps it will change when we take seriously our problem in the United States with access to guns and the unsafe environment we have created for our children. Perhaps when we take seriously that racism is real and it is our responsibility to build relationships, community, and make meaningful changes to our laws and institutions so children of color have the same opportunities as white children. Perhaps when we take seriously the implicit biases of our criminal justice and judicial systems and the resulting disproportionality against black and brown men. Perhaps when we take seriously our responsibility to make change, perhaps then it will stop.

As people of faith and no faith, we look for the strength to stand tall and speak clearly. We seek the courage to use our voices. We commit ourselves to actions that will end racism, hate, bias, and discrimination. And, we resolve to end the proliferation of guns and resulting gun violence in our nation.

When will there be change? Well, it starts here. And, it starts now. It starts with me, and it starts with you.