Home Diocesan News Bishop Murry, at prayer vigil, calls for ‘fearless’ opposition to racism
Bishop Murry, at prayer vigil, calls for ‘fearless’ opposition to racism Print E-mail
Written by Thomas Anderson, Special to the Exponent   
Friday, 25 August 2017 13:39

Speaking out fearlessly, not silence, is the right response to racism, Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., told more than 100 people gathered for an Aug. 20 “Vigil Against Hate.”

The vigil, held at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Youngstown, sponsored by Valley Voices United for Change, was held in solidarity with Charlottesville, Va., according to Valley Voices core group member Karen Zehr of Warren Blessed Sacrament Parish.

On Aug. 13, a white supremacist rally was held in Charlottesville. A peaceful counter-protester, Heather Heyer, was killed by an alleged Nazi sympathizer when, according to police reports, he plowed his car into the crowd. Two police officers also died that day in a helicopter crash while responding to the violence.

Bishop Murry told the crowd that filled the church about the Gospel story of the Canaanite woman whose persistence and faith convinced Jesus to cure her daughter. He said her great faith is a lesson for responding to violence in Charlottesville. Faith led us to believe that all men are created equal, he said.

“We as a nation are broken. To heal, we need to embrace faith,” he said. “Recent events show that the sin of racism continues to plague the nation.” He said white supremacists and neo-Nazis who held the rally in Charlottesville are “harbingers of hate,” and have no place in our society.

“We must be fearless in speaking out against hate,” Bishop Murry said. “We must recognize the humanity and dignity of each one of us,” adding: “Let us pray for delivery from the sin of racism and build bridges to each other.”

Bishop Murry concluded by saying that the Gospel of Jesus calls for us to pray “that all may be one.”

Bishop Murry was joined by a group of faith and community leaders who spoke at the vigil, including the Rev. Neil Heller of First Baptist Church of Braceville.

“It’s good [to] be hearers of the word, but it’s great to be doers of the word,” Rev. Heller said. “Leave here today being doers of social justice.”

“It wouldn’t bother me if all the Confederate statues were torn down,” he told the cheering crowd, “but it wouldn’t bother me if they weren’t torn down. What bothers me are the people who idolize the Confederate statues.”

He said the Confederate States of America was the enemy of the United States. The Confederates tried to divide us, he said, and today the white supremacists are trying to divide us again.

“We need to stand up and ask everyone, ‘Do you stand for the United States of America or the Confederate States of America?’” he asked. “Do you want to unite or divide?”

Randa Shabayek, of the Islamic Society of Greater Youngstown, said people must stand up against hate and bigotry. She said she admired Heyer for being a loving and caring young woman who was passionate in her beliefs.

The prophet Mohammed said that all mankind [descends] from Adam and Eve, Shabayek said. “Together we are strong; divided we are weak.”

Kathy DiCristofaro, a parishioner of St. Stephen Parish in Niles and chair of the Ohio Democratic Women’s Caucus, warned that hate groups are recruiting children and bombarding them through social media.

“We must say, ‘Not our children. Not on our watch,’” DiCristofaro exclaimed.

Zehr and the Rev. Marcia Dinkins, Valley Voices statewide campaign organizer, introduced the speakers, who also included the Rev. Joseph Boyd, host pastor; Christopher Anderson, president of the Mahoning County Young Democrats; and Youngstown Mayor John McNally. U.S. Rep. Timothy Ryan (D-Howland) sent a letter supporting the efforts of the people who attended.

The event included a candlelight ceremony and the singing of “We Shall Overcome.” The Rev. Robin Woodberry, assistant pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church and director of the Mahoning Valley Association of Churches, read Maya Angelou’s poem, “Still I Rise.”

Zehr concluded the event by saying: “Hate doesn’t win. Love wins. Hate is an old trick. It tells you to look to your neighbor as the cause of your problems. We need to find ways to talk about these issues. We can’t sweep them under the rug. Stay engaged. Call elected officials. Tell them to put hate groups on the terrorist list. Look for ways to promote inclusion.”


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