Don’t Forget To Say ‘Hello, Brother’
Rector Chris Girata's latest article in the Katy Trail Weekly
Just a couple months ago, I participated in an interfaith panel with two of my good friends, a Muslim imam and a Jewish rabbi. The three of us discussed similarities and differences between our traditions. One thing we didn’t do is seek the lowest common denominator. Too often, religious leaders try to use theology to find common ground, but what often happens is that we water down our faith. Instead, we can learn how we are different so that we learn to love each other because of those beautiful differences. And in doing so, realize that love is what binds us all.
On March 15, a young man walked into the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, where one of the Muslim men at the door greeted him by saying, “Hello, brother.” Seconds later, that man raised his semi-automatic shotgun and fired his first shots. At the time of this writing, 50 people are confirmed dead in this unspeakable attack.
“Hello, brother.” Those are the last words that young man heard before he carried out those hateful murders. So much has been said and written about this most recent mass shooting in the last week, but I haven’t seen much written about the kindness and love that was shown to the shooter himself, just a moment before his attack.
It may seem odd, but that simple greeting stuck in my mind. I thought back to the horrible murder of nine members of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., who were killed by another young man only after he attended Bible study with them. That young man, a stranger to the church community, was welcomed into the house of worship with grace and kindness, just as the young man in New Zealand had been welcomed into the mosque. In both cases, love and hospitality had been the currency of the faithful, and that love was met with hate.
Yet I can’t help but be proud of both communities. Of course, the murders are despicable and the men who executed those hate crimes should receive discipline, but I do not want us to forget that both stories — and I believe countless others — began with the love that binds all people of faith. And I have hope that love is what heals all of their hurt.
In today’s world, we are inundated with stories that scare us, worry us and basically bring us down. But I want us to remember that there are people all around us trying to be good, to live with kindness and to love their brothers and sisters. Sensationalism might sell, but regular, ordinary, beautiful acts of love happen all around us every day.
Mothers kiss their children as they leave for school, friends call one another to catch up, and people give generously of their time and treasure. In fact, just a few weeks ago, members of my church, Saint Michael and All Angels, combined a Meals on Wheels route with members of a local Muslim congregation who they met at our interfaith panel. They had hoped to get to know one another better, to learn about each other and decided that the best way to do that was to spend time helping others. Only a few weeks in, their new partnership is blossoming, and people are feeling loved in new ways.
So when you hear of hate in the world or when you’re told stories of tragedy, I hope you are shocked and that you mourn those who have been hurt. But don’t let those feelings stop there. Remember that there are good people all around, the kind of people who welcome strangers and care for the vulnerable — and you can join them, too. We are human, and we are flawed, but hate will not have the final word. Love will win, and we can do our part to make sure that happens.
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