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ABHMS represented in interfaith assembly to honor tragedy victims, urge end to gun violence

Gun Control Curtis Ramsey-Lewis
Photo by Jeff Huett, courtesy of Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty

Curtis Ramsey-Lucas, American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) managing director of Resource Development, represented the organization among interfaith religious leaders recently convened by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism at Washington National Cathedral to honor those killed in a Newtown, Conn., shooting and to urge Congress and the president to act swiftly to end gun violence in the United States.

"For the victims of the shootings in Newtown, as for the victims of gun violence throughout our country, darkness came too soon, and a long night stretches out before those left behind. So it is that we continue to hold them in our hearts in prayer," said Ramsey-Lucas to the group assembled on Dec. 21 in the Bishop's Garden at the cathedral, just one week after 20 children and six adults were killed by a gunman at Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School. "And, yet, in this season of Advent—of expectation—we, who are Christian, celebrate the coming of the light into the world and the Gospel reminder that this light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. So it is that American Baptist Churches USA [ABCUSA] and American Baptist Home Mission Societies add our voice to this chorus of concern and commit our efforts to the patient work of reform—of taking the sensible steps necessary to reduce the scourge of gun violence in our land."

Ramsey-Lucas' words echoed those of ABHMS Executive Director Dr. Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins III, who offered this statement immediately following the Newtown tragedy on Dec. 14: "We are shocked and saddened by this senseless shooting and the deaths and injuries in its aftermath. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families of this horrendous act. As I bend my knees in prayer, I also steel my spine to be a more outspoken advocate for the control of guns in this country."

Furthermore, a Dec. 21 letter from ABCUSA's national and regional leadership to Congress and the president calls for a ban on semi-automatic assault weapons and a restoration of funding for mental health services. The letter references gun-related tragedies, including those at the Clackamas Town Center mall, Portland, Ore.; Columbine High School, Littleton, Colo.; Virginia Tech University (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg); West Nickel Mines (Pa.) Amish School.; Century 16 theater, Aurora, Co.; and Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, Oak Creek.

"We raise our voices to state that we fully support the common-sense effort to ban the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons. ...They are designed as weapons of war, not for self-defense or hunting," the letter states. "We further support strengthened funding and access to mental health services which have been severely cut at the federal, state and local levels. These cuts have left those who are at risk of doing harm to themselves or others without adequate treatment."

The cathedral's Bourdon Bell, or funeral bell, called upon churches and houses of worship around the United States to ring bells at 9:30 a.m. EST in honor of each life that was taken in Newtown.

In addition to Ramsey-Lucas, the group included Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; the Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of Washington National Cathedral; the Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington; Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington, D.C.; Imam Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America; the Rev. Michael Livingston, past president of the NCC; Bishop Peter Weaver, executive secretary of the United Methodist Council of Bishops; Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly; the Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition; Dr. Carroll A. Baltimore Sr., president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention; and the Rev. Richard Cizik, president of New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.

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