Many have heard about the tragedy that struck our area over the weekend.
In Pittsburgh, 11 people were shot and killed at Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill during worship on the sabbath.
For the first time, the reality of the hatred that flows in the veins of parts of this world is impacting me.
Maybe it is because of the proximity.
Maybe it is the fact that they were in a vulnerable state of worship.
No matter the case, my heart breaks.
Tuesday, Gannon hosted the “Interfaith Gathering for Hope and Healing” in Yehl Ballroom.
As I entered, I noticed individuals from all walks of life: students, staff, faculty, community members and even the mayor took seats.
The Rev. Michael Kesicki opened the memorial with a short welcome, explaining that one of the 11 happened to be his parents’ doctor.
Within his own eyes, I could see the heartbreak.
A chorus sang “By the Rivers of Babylon,” instilling the lyrics in our minds as we prayed.
The entire ceremony was incredibly moving, with prayers being spoken by those of Muslim, Hindu and Christian backgrounds.
In the end, we were given a task.
Every person present was encouraged to take a pebble.
The small stone would stand as a reminder to work toward forgiveness.
It was a choice to find a way to love someone else over hate.
And when we open our hearts to forgiveness, we are to place the pebbles at the front desk of Waldron Campus Center as a reminder of our own community working toward love.
Through all of this hate that we have questioned over not only the past few days, but for many months, I cannot help but feel that the key answer is simple: choose love.
In a time of desolation, we come as a community to be together and to pray.
Many want to take action and stand up and speak out.
But I feel that an even more powerful act is seen with prayer.
To open your heart to peace and love enables you to find a way to get past the hate.
The message of love is all throughout our world. We must cling to it.
As Colossians 3:13-14 states, “bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
I hope that as a community, we continue to find ways to love and to find time to pray.
Pray for all of those affected by the tragic events of these few days and that there is healing throughout a land torn by hate.
And over the next few days, glance at a jar of pebbles on a desk.
It might not seem like much, but it stands for something much bigger.
It stands for forgiveness, truth, sincerity, understanding, tolerance and love.
A love strong enough to bridge gaps, mend hearts and heal wounds.
A love that transcends the pain hate brings and says shalom to all.