On Monday night, I looked at my social media account to check out the scores of some baseball games. Instead, I found out that another senseless attack occurred on the other side of the world. This time it was at a pop concert filled with teenagers in Manchester, England.
At the same time, I was presenting at a unique religious and spirituality conference on the campus of UCLA, sponsored by NASPA for student affairs administrators in Higher Education.
It was unique as the participants ranged in ages and experiences. They worked at public and private institutions. They represented a variety of religions, cultures and ethnic backgrounds.
My heart sank as I followed the tweets about the attack. As one who goes to concerts and sporting events, it hit home. As a father, it hit home. As a human being, it hit home.
As I searched for answers last night, my Facebook was flooded with what I would call “I told you so” posts. Their perception was that this is what you get when you let refugees into your country. One “friend” wrote: “America, it is time to wake up.”
Another wrote, “This is why I voted for Trump.”
Fast forward to today, and a lunch I just had with colleagues as the conference.
Sitting next to me was a faculty member from the mid-West. She identified as a Muslim, and researched and advocated for religious identity. She shared how she never asked to do this work, but after the election, it was necessary.
She spoke to the hostility that she and her students face. From the verbal comments to the visual signs, their world was different.
The complexity of the world we live in weighs heavily on us. At a time when religious educators gather in peace and in dialogue, there are tears being spread with heavy hearts, and there are many who are pointing the finger unfairly at a religion and generalizing innocent people as extremists and terrorists. And there are fanatics who are angry and violent.
In a search for clarity, I look to a meeting that will occur Wednesday morning in the Vatican. Pope Francis and Donald Trump will meet. It is a wonderful model for each one of us.
We are called to sit at the table. We are called to dialogue, even if we approach life differently.
Pope Francis sent two tweets over the past 24 hours that bring us hope and guidance.
You can read more about this upcoming meeting here.
Perhaps Trump and Francis can meet together to model dialogue toward peace, even when our world is as polarized as it is. May those peacemakers keep moving forward, and may those who are angry and afraid remember the mandate to love our neighbor, even when it isn’t easy. May we respect one another’s truths, even when we disagree.
And let us pray for the peace of our God to help those who mourn today from the attacks in Manchester, and all those who suffer by violence but do not gain the news coverage.
Finally, may we find our purpose and role in a world that desperately needs peace and love.