At so many great churches in York County, a sign outside reads, “All are welcome.”
All means all.
The same words are found at any Sikh temple – just like the one in Wisconsin where a criminal with a white supremacist past decided on Sunday he was going to kill people who did not look like him.
The shooter, a coward, then ambushed and shot the heroic cops trying to stand up for those immigrant Sikhs and children of immigrant Sikhs who were doing what all are allowed to do in America – practice their religion freely.
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The shootings have outraged and sickened so many religious people here who decry all violence for any reason – but violence at a house of worship seems, somehow, even worse.
“Awful,” is how the Rev. Larry Richards of the Providence Presbytery described the shootings that seem certain to have reasons of religious and racial hatred at the core.
Richards has helped organize and run ecumenical meetings, meals and worship services between area Christians and Muslims in recent years.
“People are so much more alike than different,” he said. “Our goal has always been to appreciate the similarities and embrace them, but there are some like this man in Wisconsin who would depreciate the shared spirit that all people have.”
The violence at the Sikh temple is a reminder that prejudice, violence and discrimination is not eradicated from an America that is built upon religious freedom and tolerance, said the Rev. David Brown, the associate pastor for young people at Oakland Baptist Church.
“This shows that all of us have to get involved in a conversation and ask what can we do to change the part of our culture that is violent,” said Brown, who runs Oakland Baptist’s ministry for Winthrop University students.
The Rev. Bob Shrum, the senior pastor at Oakland Baptist, where that sign welcomes “all” to the church, said tolerance must return to Americans’ acceptance of others.
On Rock Hill’s Main Street, workers continued Monday toward the completion of a Muslim mosque.
News of the violence against a religious group spread quickly among local Muslims, who have been generally “accepted with open arms” locally – yet have dealt with a couple incidents of vandalism.
The local mosque does plan to install cameras at its current temporary house of worship on Cherry Road and at the permanent mosque that leaders hope will be finished this year.
“This act of violence in a house of worship is a terrible day for all Americans,” said James “Jumah” Moore, director of the Islamic Center of South Carolina. “There is no place for this in the America that all of us love so much.”
Another leader of local Muslims, Jasiri Makadara, said all Americans must embrace religious freedom, even if that religion is not their own. Sikhs in America historically have been industrious and patriotic, Makadara said.
“People are entitled to their beliefs,” he said, “as that is the foundation of democracy.”
At the heart of this awful mass shooting is that the killer brought his hate to a church built for love and peace.
Brown, that young pastor at Oakland Baptist, said there is a reason people use the term “senseless violence” to describe events like the Sikh temple shooting.
“Because there is no way to explain the awful reality of it that makes any sense,” Brown said. “Human beings were killed in that temple – people – for no reason any of us can understand.”