Memorial Candles

A Missional Response to the New Zealand Massacre

I know that moments like this are important to hold. When tragedy strikes, our humanity and faith require us to respond. When 50 people are slain in hatred while praying, our spirit recognizes the ill fit of death and suffering. Obvious and initial reactions go to shock, then compassion. Before going on, we first emphatically declare that these actions are unacceptable. We know enough to disallow hatred and violence based on difference. The ideas and actions of white supremacy have no place amongst us! All people, of all races, religions, or of any other category are valued and are to be afforded peace and life.

But, it’s after this declaration that the real work begins. Words and sentiment are easy. If we are to be like the Christ we profess in our Christian faith, the loss of the life of our brothers and sisters of the Muslim faith must also cause us to inspect how this hatred is made possible. We must participate in active peacemaking. Also, we need to ask the hard questions that would help us understand how to ensure that these things can never happen again - especially if any of our own actions, posture, or words would make even the smallest room for division. Division is an early step on the path toward hatred. According to the arch of Christian scripture, we are one humanity, often divided, but moving toward completion in a beautifully diverse unity. Our mission is to participate in this holy unity.

After lament, our work often clarifies. Division in our language, or resulting from our methods, can be seen more clearly in the light of such great loss. For several months, we, at World Horizons USA, have been taking an honest look at our words and actions in Christian mission. We have already begun seeking to critically understand how our expression of faith impacts others. Our ethic, or measuring stick, is the solid concept of love. We have a fair amount of words on this in the Bible. It’s a good metric. If anything we do, say, or how we approach others, does not merit this label, then it cannot be continued. We must root it out. We have been happy to do this work internally, and to let the results go quietly beyond our walls and throughout the world. But, we cannot be silent now. Our internal work must now be made boldly public. Anything short would potentially lighten the gravity of loss in these 50 brothers and sisters of a neighboring faith. Their great cost will be borne by our restorative efforts. The mission of our Christ must go out as meriting the full definition of love with the urgency that their suffering demands.

Our confession is that we have not always been very careful, especially in the realm of Christian missions. We have sometimes labeled, accused, other-ized, decreased the value of, and over simplified our fellow humans. This is especially so for those of the Muslim faith. We have often made them the enemy, while proclaiming love. I have personally made declarations in the past, inside churches, that I have come to learn are simply not true about Muslims. People have believed my words. It is exactly this careless methodology that makes room for division to become normative. This division gives ample berth for hate to form and to grow. Any participation in these things are to be treated like a cancer and cut out aggressively. This carelessness has cost much. To my dear Muslim friends, I am sorry for my past words, and for my latent courage.

You will see our words and work change at World Horizons USA. We are taking the responsibility for repentance, for better words and methodologies of faith, and for leading the discussion of a fully love-merited Christian mission. We offer this to the greater Church. We offer this work as our statement of solidarity with those who have suffered in the past, and who suffer now at the hands of hate.

Our ongoing prayer is:

May our faith be good and useful. May it go out into the world as love. May others understand their value because of our work. May we discover the Christ amongst and with the beautifully diverse canvas of humanity. And, may we have the wisdom to do no harm as we go. Amen.

You are welcome to join us in this work, and in prayer.

Humbly and somberly,

Dan Reeves
Executive Director
World Horizons USA

**Photo by Mike Labrum on Unsplash