Presbyterian Disaster Assistance leader on the shootings in El Paso and Dayton

This was written August 3 by Presbyterian Disaster Assistance director Laurie Kraus, and shared with her permission. Kraus added this note: Since this writing, 9 more individuals were killed in a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio. PDA has reached out to Miami Presbytery to offer assistance.
No thoughts and prayers. I am all but speechless with rage and grief. I have tried, but cannot find words to pen in prayer. This lament has anger and sorrow so deeply entwined in me that I cannot find where one leaves off and the other begins.
Presbyterians walked with Baltimore CeaseFire on August 2, calling for an end to gun violence and praying by name for people from Baltimore who have been killed. (Photo by Jen Jones.)

Yesterday with hundreds of Presbyterians in Baltimore, I prayed and walked, pausing to say the names and remember the stories of citizens, mostly men of color, who were murdered on the city streets. Last night, we screened PDA’s documentary  “Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence” and heard from an extraordinary panel of community our activists who are making a difference in Baltimore. At Big Tent, we tried to confront our privilege and our white supremacy. We came to our feet together, Rising for Refuge just this morning to uphold our faith and civil conviction that all people on the move, asylum seekers and refugees, are welcome in our land, and in our churches and in our neighborhoods and lives. And then, landing in my home community, I saw “‘mass shooting in El Paso,” and I thought about what El Paso, a city in which I spent my first and formative years means in our current public climate.

El Paso is a beautiful, complex, multi lingual, multi racial city with countless citizens, activists and faith communities laboring every day to provide care, shelter, welcome and advocacy for neighbors seeking asylum in our nation. It is a city where Mexican neighbors from Ciudad Juarez and U S neighbors from El Paso walk to each others’ restaurants and shops in peace. Why would a white young man drive hundreds of miles and 10 hours from North Texas to shoot up a WalMart in El Paso? Racism and Xenophobia.

The press coverage and government officials speaking in these early hours are not talking about guns. And so far in our presidential election run-up, the plague of gun violence poisoning our nation has not been a prominent topic of discussion. We don’t have the political will to shut down the out of control gun lobby.

The coverage has, however, talked about hate rhetoric in social media and reminded us “if you see something, say something.” So here it is:

The president of our country tweets, speaks publically and posts racist, inflammatory, divisive and hateful invective nearly continually, with impunity. Where do you suppose a white kid from North Texas got the idea that gunning down brown people in a border city was ok?
Come on.

I have been a pastor for 35 years. I have worked as staff with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance at the Presbyterian Mission Agency for 8 years. I have volunteered with PDA in response to Human Caused Disaster, trauma and mass violence events for more than 25 years. There were THREE* mass violence events this week alone. Thoughts and prayers are not going to help us if we don’t confess how deeply we have failed to confront our racism and fear, failed to honor the image of God in every human being, speak out, rise up, and change.

*FOUR mass shootings. Three hours after I first posted this, 9 more people died and 26 were wounded in Dayton, Ohio.
In less than one minute.

The Rev. Dr. Laurie A Kraus
Director, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance
The Ministries of Compassion, Peace, and Justice, Presbyterian Church, USA