Joint statement from Bishop Christopher Coyne and Bishop Thomas Ely – July 8, 2016
We write as two of Vermont’s faith leaders whose hearts are aching in response to the recent acts of violence filling news reports and social media networks this week. The tragic deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police officers earlier this week and deadly assault on police officers in Dallas last evening grieve us to no end. Certainly, our hearts and prayers go out to those killed and injured in these violent incidents, as well as to their families and the communities most directly involved. We value the hard work and faithful commitment of those entrusted with public safety in communities throughout Vermont and beyond. Those who serve the public in dangerous situations are to be commended for their service. Violence directed against police officers in the line of duty has no place in our society.
At the same time, we deplore the sin of racism that so often rears its ugly head in acts of prejudice, discrimination and violence toward people of color in our country. This too, has no place in our society. The disproportionate number of young black men incarcerated in our prisons, the often unevenly enforced laws that contribute to that reality and the all too numerous acts of verbal and physical violence directed toward persons of color disturb us greatly.
Respecting the dignity of every human being and understanding that we are part of one human family are foundational tenets of faith for us, and we lament the varied ways in which so many people fail to embrace those basic values and beliefs. Expressions of hatred and violence seem all too common in our world today and the results are always damaging.
Clearly, there is investigative work to do in regard to these most recent events and it is our hope that justice is swift, full and fair with respect to each. As Christians, we know that prayer is essential and so we call upon our respective communities of faith and all people throughout Vermont to offer prayers this weekend for all who have died violent deaths this week, their families, friends and the communities where they live. Pray for an end to violence and for the courage to love without prejudice.
Prayer must also move us to action and so we invite you to join with us in taking concrete action that might renew our covenant to honor and respect one another as members of one human family. We invite you to take steps that work to build a culture of peace to replace the culture of violence that has us firmly in its grasp. We are deeply concerned and yet ever hopeful.
Bishop Christopher Coyne, Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington
Bishop Thomas Ely, Episcopal Diocese of Vermont