(RNS) — More than 550 faith leaders have asked President Joe Biden to declare Mother’s Day an occasion for Americans to pray for an end to gun violence.
“While some may throw up their arms and say that this is a battle too large to win, we, an interfaith coalition, made up of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and other faith traditions, remember the miracles of ancient times and remain optimistic that this scourge can be overcome,” said the signatories of the letter organized by the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
Signatories and leaders of the organization that seeks nonviolent alternatives to conflict say that legislation, in addition to prayers, is needed for the country to reach a new juncture in addressing gun violence. They thanked Biden for his signing of a March executive order that increased background checks before firearms sales and urged additional action in the wake of shootings that killed students and staff at a Tennessee school and employees of a Kentucky bank in recent months.
“We appeal to you to declare this Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 14, 2023, to be a national day of repentance, mourning, prayer, and reflection to address the culture of gun violence that is staining our collective soul,” their letter continues. “We ask for our lawmakers and faith institutions to reflect this Mother’s Day on how we are allowing gun manufacturers, the gun lobby, and a culture of gun worship to hold our country hostage.”
Recalling female figures in the Bible, they wrote of Mary, mother of Jesus, who “stood at the foot of the cross witnessing brutality, inhumanity, and death being inflicted on her child.” And, citing the courage of Queen Esther, the letter asked, “Will you squander the demand of this historical time, or go like Esther into the fury to save lives and people?”
Fellowship leaders also pointed out ties that have been found between Christian nationalism and opposition to gun control legislation.
“In the wake of mass shootings, the constant refrain from these Christian nationalists is only that Americans need to pray more while acting as though it would be sacrilegious to consider any limitations at all on gun access,” said FOR Executive Director Ariel Gold in a statement. “We have called on religious leaders to sign on to our Mother’s Day initiative, because this melding of Christian faith and white supremacist violence needs to be called out for what it has always been: a perverse manipulation of faith into a form of control, coercion, and domination.”
Signatories on the letter include the Rev. Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Bishop Vashti McKenzie of the National Council of Churches, Rabbi Jill Jacobs of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, Shane Claiborne of Red Letter Christians and the Rev. Liz Theoharis of Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice.
The Fellowship of Reconciliation started collecting signatures on April 13 and its letter follows a statement it released in response to the mass shooting at the Christian school in Nashville, Tennessee, and a letter sent by Utah businessman Robert Steiner to Biden after it. Steiner suggested Mother’s Day as a time for a national prayer day “in respect of the mothers who have lost or will lose their children to this madness.”