high holy holidays of Passover and Easter are fast approaching and
Ramadan is in May. Attacks, however, on places of worship are
becoming too frequent in this global climate of intolerance. As a
worshiper, I need our president to make us safe.
Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue mass shooting occurred in October
2018, injuring seven and killing 11 people. It was the deadliest
anti-Semitic attack on the Jewish community in the country.
month, the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand were two
consecutive terrorist attacks at mosques, killing 50 people and
injuring over 50 more. The gunman, a self-described eco-fascist and
ethno nationalist, live-streamed his first attack on Facebook Live.
news broke this month that three historically African American
Baptist churches had burned within 10 days in rural Louisiana’s
St. Landry Parish, sadly, the horror was all too familiar. The only
good news in these recent incidents is that there were no casualties.
the assailant was apprehended, none of the church burnings had been
labeled as hate crimes, suggesting that the over 100-year-old
churches were perhaps subject to accidental ignition due to old and
crumbling infrastructures, faulty wiring, or thunderstorms that can
cause power outages and occasional fires.
Holden Matthews, the son of St. Landry Parish’s sheriff deputy,
was arrested as the arsonist, igniting a wave of panic throughout its
Black community. Matthews, 21, is White. He was influenced by “black
metal” music, a subgenre of heavy metal is known for its
anti-Christian and demagogic rhetoric and promoting neo-Nazism.
Matthews’ behavior is undoubtedly disturbing to its residents —
both Black and White — his actions are not new.
link between White supremacy and attacks on African American churches
in this country has been both historically documented, and
anecdotally known in Black communities.
example, the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in
Birmingham, Alabama killed four little African American girls. It is
one of the iconic images of White supremacist domestic terrorism.
Massachusetts, however, which is known as the bluest of blue states,
proved that church burnings are not the sole province of the South.
burnings were one more persistent reminder why during antebellum
America, hush harbors were places where my enslaved ancestors
gathered in secret to worship. These recent fires remind me how
African Americans’ desire for safe and sacred spaces —
especially places of worship — continue to be challenged with
Macedonia Church of God in Christ in Springfield was burned just
hours after Obama was elected that historic night of November 2008 as
our country’s first African American president.
2015, African American church burnings occurred suspiciously in rapid
succession following the Charleston Black church massacre, which left
nine dead — including its senior pastor. The day before the
church massacre, precisely 197 years prior, “Mother”
Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was burned to the ground
due to the racial violence of a mob of White slave owners.
African Americans are not the only ones confronted with this
roots of the Tree of Life massacre were White supremacy and
anti-Semitism. When the gunman was apprehended by a SWAT officer he
allegedly told him, he “wanted all Jews to die, and that Jews
were committing genocide against his people.”
roots of the Christchurch massacre were White supremacy and
Islamophobia. The gunman praised President Trump in his 74-page
manifesto posted online, in which he lauded Trump as a symbol “of
renewed White identity and common purpose.”
attack has our Muslim brothers and sisters on edge. Just blocks from
me, the mosque in Cambridge was on 24-hour surveillance for fear of a
a press conference, Trump was asked if he "see(s) today that
White nationalism is a rising threat around the world" in the
wake of mosques attacks in New Zealand.
don't really. I think it’s a small group of people that have
very, very serious problems, I guess,” Trump replied.
statement reminded me of his repugnant “blame on both sides”
comment about the Charlottesville mayhem that took place the summer
of 2017. By condemning counter protesters similarly as White
supremacists and swastika-wielding neo-Nazis at the rally, Trump
suggested both groups were at fault, and one was equally in the wrong
as the other.
is these type of statements that keep White supremacist terrorism
alive, here and abroad, and our places of worship in danger.
of worship are supposed to be sanctuaries. Freedom of religion is
guaranteed in our constitution, and it’s a freedom that should
be upheld globally. With many of us approaching the high holy
holidays these coming days and weeks ahead, nothing would be more
comforting than knowing our places of worship are safe.