Published in the April 26, 2019 edition.

WAKEFIELD — On Sunday morning we learned of the horrific terror attacks in Sri Lanka. Suicide bombers killed at least 359 people in churches and hotels as Christians gathered with family and friends to celebrate Easter, the holiest day in the Christian faith. The death toll continues to rise, as families mourn those they love. For those in mourning, Easter will always be marked by unimaginable pain and loss. With them, our hearts are broken. The disregard for human life exhibited by the terrorists is not supported by our faith traditions and has been condemned by religious and civil leaders of every background.

Over the past year our Wakefield community has come together multiple times in response to tragedy. We joined in prayer and solidarity in October after fire consumed the First Baptist Church building. Soon after, members of Temple Emmanuel invited the wider community to join in their grief following the shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history, killing 11. The Solidarity Shabbat was an occasion of profound unity as members of the temple, religious and civic leaders, and the wider community shared prayer and conviction.

Last month we gathered again for a Vigil for Peace and Solidarity on the Veterans Memorial Common following shootings in mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand that killed 50 Muslim worshippers. Because there is no mosque in town, we gathered on common ground to express our conviction that hate has no home in Wakefield, and that our community benefits from the diverse beliefs and backgrounds in our midst.

Now, we encourage our community to come together again. Wakefield is blessed to be home to churches of many traditions: Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist, Baptist, Congregationalist, Unitarian Universalist, Romanian Orthodox, Charismatic Episcopal, and non-denominational Christian. Many of these will be offering prayer for the Sri Lankan martyrs this weekend in light of their belief in resurrection and the new life of Easter.

We invite and encourage members of the wider community to show solidarity with the martyred Sri Lankans and Christians around the world by sharing in worship this weekend. Services will vary by tradition, but all profess belief in the power of God to overcome evil with love. Reliance on this belief is ever more important now.

Sunday, April 28 has also been designed as “Open Mosque Day” by the Islamic Council of New England. The theme is “No Walls Between Us.” The newly opened Islamic Cultural Center of Medford will be participating with an open house from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. Sharing in a weekend church service, followed by participation in the Open Mosque Day, would be a fitting way to honor those killed for their religious faith over the past year—Jewish, Muslim, and Christian—while striving for deeper understanding of our neighbors and the profound diversity within our own community.

Next Thursday, May 2 has been designated the National Day of Prayer by the U.S. Congress, an annual event since 1952. This year’s theme is “Love one another.” An Interfaith Service of Prayer will be held at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 5 Bryant Street, at 5:30 p.m. We invite you to attend as we remember the Christians killed in Sri Lanka, pray for their survivors, and rededicate ourselves to building a community of understanding in our town. Following the prayer service, the Wakefield Interfaith Clergy Association will invite a community conversation on religious diversity and deepening our respect and support for one another.

Finally, on Friday, May 3, Temple Emmanuel will be holding a “Yom Hashoah” (Holocaust Day) Shabbat, in honor of Holocaust Memorial Day. This special Sabbath remembrance will be held from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. As we reflect on the horrific acts of violence perpetrated in our midst today, we vow never to forget those of the past.

The Wakefield Interfaith Clergy Association is committed to ensuring that all feel safe, welcome, and respected in our town. This community is infinitely stronger and more beautiful when we support one another in our diverse expressions of faith. Hate has no home here. Love, respect, and understanding do.

The Rev. Dr. Matthew P. Cadwell, Chair,

Wakefield Interfaith Clergy Association, 

Emmanuel Episcopal Church

The Rev. Glenn Mortimer, Secretary,
Wakefield Interfaith Clergy Association, 

Wakefield-Lynnfield United Methodist Church

The Rev. Fr. Ronald Barker, St.
Joseph’s Parish

The Rev. Dr. Norman Bendroth, First Baptist Church

The Rev. Fr. William Coughlin, 

Most Blessed Sacrament Parish

The Rev. Fr. Vincent Gianni, St.
Florence Parish

Rabbi Gregory Hersh, Temple Emmanuel

The Rev. Bruce Taylor, Unitarian Universalist Church of Wakefield