Together we can be an oasis

Dear IPSC friends,

I write to you in deep sorrow for the many people dead, missing, injured, and suffering since Saturday night’s eruption of violence in Israel and Gaza. This is a terrible time for thousands of people, be they Israeli or Palestinian, Jew or Arab, or indeed anyone caught in the conflict. For an organization such as IPSC which is dedicated to peace and compassion, the identities that matter right now are father, mother, child, neighbor, friend and not-yet friend, those bereaved, suffering, confused and in fear.

As I taught my students in my seminary class yesterday, interfaith leaders (which all of you are!) are those who can bring people together around what we agree upon. Polarizing issues demand our attention and considered response as individuals, but are often impossible to reach consensus about in a group like ours. To me, the greatest skill learned from interfaith is how to come together and talk about the things that trouble, worry, anger and grieve us – without blame and standing in a place of love for each other.

This is one of those times when we are called to compassionate listening, with hearts open to learn, discern and clarify for ourselves. It is not easy. I repeat that – it is not easy, nor will it ever be. We have been through this before when a white supremacist murdered nine people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. Racism has not disappeared from our state, but that tragedy opened the door to many conversations which we had all been avoiding for years. Many of you have talked to me over the years about your concerns for matters in the Middle East. Some of you have counseled me to avoid both-sides-ism.

I have often counseled moderation and active listening, but when it comes to violence there are not two sides. I can only stand on the side of peace. Not being a diplomat or general or politician, I cannot impose or orchestrate peace from the top. But I will continue to believe in, speak for, and live out peace as best I understand it and can achieve. My interfaith friendships have taught me that our grassroots relationships can build bridges that we may not have imagined.

So, I ask all our Interfaith Partners of South Carolina family to join me in these things:

  1. Prayer for peace, salam, shalom, and the end of violence in Israel and in the occupied territories of Palestine.
  2. Resisting the urge to be drawn into social media trolling, or arguments.
  3. Welcoming productive opportunities to share your deep convictions with others.
  4. Supporting those who today are in mourning, and recognizing the many who have mourned over the years. Be a balm to their pain, whatever may be their identity.

Together we can be an oasis. Our love and compassion can place us in the center where healing and hope happen. I hope you will join me there.

Em hotep, in peace,
Holli S. Emore, MDiv
Chair, Interfaith Partners of South Carolina
October 9, 2023