In in my office, next to my desk, rests a statue titled “The Circle of Unity.” It was created from a single block of wood showing three people interlocked – holding each other in balance. It was made in the Congo. It speaks to my soul, never more so than in the days since the hate crime at the Unitarian Universalist Church. A frightening message spewing hate was left at the church in response to an event the church had held the day before. It was a vile statement that disturbs me to the depths of my soul. I believe we must talk about such crimes; but, that ugliness is not my reason for writing. The purpose behind these words took place a few days later as our city responded to this ugly intrusion. We created our own “circle of unity” as we held each other in the balance of love for all human life. On a cold winter night, when the roads were slick with black ice, more than five hundred citizens gathered at the Unitarian Church to offer a counter message – a clear message of hope and solidarity. Mayor Dennis said that West Lafayette has never been a city of hate, but a place of love and welcome. He said that will remain our legacy for hate has no place here. A diverse group of community leaders spoke including religious representatives from the Jewish, Islamic and Christian traditions, elected officials, and several social justice activists. The thing that struck me was the sense of great sadness that such an event occurred and the commitment to not let hate define us. The message of those present was – we are going to work together in love making sure hate has no room to grow. I was proud to be a citizen of West Lafayette….
One speaker suggested four ways we can prevent hatred from gaining a foothold. We should: 1. WATCH – watch for any sign of disrespect and become the MODEL for respectful behavior; 2. FIGHT – fight any sign of hate with acts of great love that cement the unity in our community; 3. PRAY – pray for a change of heart in those who by fear have embraced hate. Pray to be examples of virtue to all; 4. VOTE – vote for leaders who see the best for ALL people and seek to build bridges and not walls that divide.
I can be a part of the circle of unity that is our community, that holds us all in loving balance. This sign of unity will be the beginning of a renewed campaign of love and respect in our city as we recognize that unity is strength, division is weakness…. God was present a week ago in that gathering and God was smiling, for what is done with love is done well. We have work to do that will strengthen and bless our circle and keep us in balance. It is holy work….