Via the Diocese of Maryland:
As leaders of Baltimore’s faith communities, we have followed with increasing concern the unfolding events surrounding the tragic and untimely death of Freddie Gray. We appeal to the members of our faith communities and to all citizens of good will to remain calm and to express their anger and frustration in peaceful and constructive ways, allowing the various investigations now underway to proceed so that all of us will soon have the answers we seek.
This latest incident threatens to deepen the divide between the community and law enforcement, and, regardless of the eventual outcome of the current investigations, prompts renewed questions about how the Baltimore City police relates to citizens in certain areas of the city. While deeply troubling and deserving of the increased scrutiny currently taking place, these issues are but symptoms of much larger problems plaguing our City. As faith leaders present with congregations and services that help to anchor the neighborhoods of Baltimore, we fear the other widespread effects of the lack of access to quality education and employment opportunities, as well as to quality health care. The issues before us will not be satisfactorily resolved until every man, woman, and child in our city and nation are treated with the human dignity deserving of all God’s children, and until all vestiges of the sins of discrimination, prejudice and racism are wiped from the face of the earth.
Specifically, as religious leaders in metropolitan Baltimore, we …
- offer condolences and prayers for the family and friends of Freddie Gray, giving thanks to God for his life, commending his spirit to our gracious and merciful Lord and praying for comfort and peace of mind for those who knew and loved him;
- commend the many citizens who have turned out in protest over these past several days for their peaceful demonstrations and restraint. Protests are a natural and necessary part in a democratic society, giving voice to a frustrated community and hopefully leading to action on the part of those who provide leadership in the city;
- pray for our mayor, police commissioner, state’s attorney and other city leaders and law enforcement officials and call on them to facilitate open, thorough and public investigations that lead to real answers in a short time frame;
- pray for the six police officers who have been suspended in the wake of these tragic events, in accordance with Christian charity and our belief as Americans that all are presumed innocent until proven guilty and that they are, even if guilty, still children of God;
- call on the members of all churches, synagogues and mosques to pray for a timely and peaceful resolution to this incident during worship services this weekend; and to engage constructively in conversation about racial injustice;
- invite the faith community before or after worship services this weekend, as a group, to step outside their buildings and assemble in front of the entrance to their houses of worship as a visible sign of solidarity with the surrounding community and to observe a minute of silence and reflection.
The challenges facing our City are immense. Too many feel unvalued, and the absence of adequate economic opportunities, affordable housing, drug treatment resources and other social safeguards have resulted in a growing sense of hopelessness in our community. Now, more than ever, there is the need for deliberate conversation, accountability, respect, and unity of purpose.
We, as leaders of Baltimore’s faith communities, have come together to call upon all segments of the community, inclusive of the corporate leadership and philanthropic leadership, to work with us to undertake an earnest and immediate dialogue in pursuit of long-term solutions to the pervasive cycle of poverty and violence that besets the otherwise beautiful City of Baltimore.
We profess that every life is precious to God, and are committed to building a City marked by peace, unity and opportunity for all.
May our gracious God bless us all!
Baltimore Interfaith Coalition
Bishop Denis Madden, Bishop Doug Miles, Co-Chairs
Central Maryland Ecumenical Council
The Rev. Fred Weimert, President
CMEC Ecumenical Leaders Group
Bishop Wolfgang D. Herz-Lane, President
Image: “Baltimore Police” by Ted Van Pelt, via Flickr