Meet violence with “resolve and courage” rather than fear and discrimination, the president of the United States bishops' conference said in an Advent message following multiple mass shootings in the country. “Watching innocent lives taken and wondering whether the violence will reach our own families rightly stirs our deepest protective emotions,” Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville said in a Dec. 14 statement. However, he added, “we must resist the hatred and suspicion that leads to policies of discrimination.” “Instead, we must channel our emotions of concern and protection, born in love, into a vibrant witness to the dignity of every person.” The archbishop was responding to recent outbursts of violence — a Nov. 27 shooting at a Colorado Springs, Colo. Planned Parenthood clinic that killed three, and a Dec. 2 shooting at a San Bernardino, Calif. center for persons with disabilities that killed 14 and injured 22. FBI officials are investigating the San Bernardino shooting as a possible act of terrorism. The perpetrators, Syed Farook and his wife Tashid Malik, reportedly have links to Islamist radicalism. Malik has made a number of social media postings promoting jihad while Farook is believed to have connections with a group of jihadis who were planning to join al-Qaeda. Archbishop Kurtz offered consolation and prayers for the victims of the shootings and their families. “We pray that family and friends facing the pain of loss and the journey of recovery find strength in the compassion of their community,” the archbishop said. “We draw especially close to the local Church, which has borne the burden of mourning the loss of those who died and of comforting their families, yet has the strength to reach out in love. Reactions to the shooting should never discriminate against “people of good will,” he insisted. Rather, he added, as “policies of fear and inflammatory rhetoric will only offer extremists fertile soil and pave the way toward a divisive, fearful future.” In an exhortation against discrimination, he cited Pope Francis’ Sept. 24 address to a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress, where the Pope asked members to live by the “Golden Rule”, saying that “the yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.” The U.S. bishops’ conference will continue their support for “strengthening social services for persons with mental illness” and “responsible firearms regulation” in the wake of the shootings, the archbishop said, while adding that “only a small number” of those suffering from mental illness are a risk to themselves or others. The bishops will also stand strong against religious discrimination and for accepting refugees who are fleeing violence, he added. “Let us confront the extremist threat with courage and compassion, recognizing that Christianity, Islam, Judaism and many other religions are united in opposition to violence carried out in their name,” he concluded.
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