National and Tennessee Community and Religious Leaders Respond to Shooting in Chattanooga, TN

Released: July 17th, 2015

 A month ago today, a young gunman murdered nine members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.  It was the first day of Ramadan.  This morning a young man murdered four marines, and wounded three others.  Numerous others were traumatized, and families of the killed and wounded must now begin the long road of grief. Yesterday marked the close of Ramadan in 2015. Any religion worthy of its name will stand against these episodes of violence and murder, and will call for an uncompromising reaction of resilient faithfulness in our communities across this country.  We know that no single individual defines a faith or a community.  And, it is a sign of the health of our citizenry when we seek to deepen our understanding of these events even as we share as best we can alongside those who have lost loved ones today.

“This heinous act is deeply troubling for the Muslim community, especially as Muslims are ending the holy month of Ramadan. As Muslims gather to pray, to worship God, we will also mourn the loss of our servicemen,” Mr. Naeem Baig said, who is the moderator of Religions for Peace USA and the President of the Islamic Circle of North America. “Islam condemns such an act and in no way endorses such violence.”

For the past 3 years, Religions for Peace USA and Faith and Culture Center have been working to build trust between Muslims and non-Muslims through the Our Muslim Neighbor initiative. “As a Muslim and as an American, this violence is abhorrent,” says Mr. Daoud Abudiab, President of Faith and Culture Center. “America is a country where all are welcomed, and where violence at the level is contrary to the very idea of America. The Muslim community here in Middle Tennessee stands with those who are mourning the loss of life, and commits to working to improve relationships so as to make such crimes socially unacceptable.”

Rev. Robert Montgomery, a Board Member of Faith and Culture Center says, “Events like those in Charleston and Chattanooga feel like daggers through our hearts. They ought to also remind us that violence always tears some fellow human being’s life and family apart. If we want any religion to be seen as credible, we have to show the world, especially our young people, that faith must choose the courageous path of renouncing violence and seeking peace and justice through words of truth and actions of hope.”

For many across the country, acts like this have the potential to incite reactionary fear and distrust. Dr. Michael Reid Trice, from the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University, and a member of the Our Muslim Neighbor Voices, notes that, “Violence such as that perpetrated in Chattanooga is not permitted in any religion. Millions in this country share a resilient faithfulness, and we grieve with these families so affected today with such loss.  My commitment to the Christian faith calls me to work so that these actions are driven from the earth, and to spread God’s unremitting love for all of humanity.” Dr. Trice and other leaders in the interfaith movement across the country and in Tennessee recognize the importance of working for greater understanding and interfaith peacebuilding.

“Peace is not only a lack of violence,” Says Dr. Tarunjit Singh Butalia a special advisor to Religions for Peace USA and a founding trustee of the Sikh Council of Interfaith Relations, “Peace is a state where relationships of trust, equity and justice exist between all. The Sikh community stands in solidarity with those who lost loved ones, but also boldly proclaims that our commitment to ending such crimes requires us to build stronger relationships and deeper understanding of our neighbors: regardless of race or religion.”

We recognize that in order to build a stronger community we all must bond together, declare violence unacceptable and commit to working across religious and racial boundaries that can potentially divide us. All of our religions call for a positive peace, a peace that proclaims justice and equality for all. As we mourn and pray for the lives lost, let us also commit to continue working together to make it so.

Religions for Peace USA and Faith and Culture Center partner to carry out the Our Muslim Neighbor initiative: a public education effort to improve the relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in Middle Tennessee. This statement is a community statement, and open to all other community organizations that wish to add their name. Please write if you would like to add your organization’s name.

Signed By:

Religions for Peace USA

Faith and Culture Center | Our Muslim Neighbor


Local Partners:

Islamic Center of Columbia

Islamic Center of Nashville

Salahadeen Center of Nashville

Family of Abraham

Nashville Gurudwara

Masjid Al Farooq

Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Williamson County TN

Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Franklin TN

Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition

The Muslim Women’s Council

Islamic Center of Murfreesboro

Islamic Center of Tennessee