Texas faith leaders stand with Uvalde community, speak out against gun culture after school rampage
(RNS) – The Archbishop of San Antonio, Gustavo García-Siller, was returning to Uvalde, Texas on Wednesday morning (May 25) – after spending most of the previous night there accompanying families following the one of the deadliest school shootings – when he walked past an ad promoting guns in the Lone Star State.
“We want children and young people to think differently and the common element in all these situations that have happened recently in Buffalo, New York, El Paso and Houston, Texas … the common element is guns, the lack of control,” García-Siller told Religion. News Service while en route to Uvalde.
He condemned gun culture, saying guns are treated as idols and a source of pride among people who may feel like “I’m powerful with a gun”.
“We don’t want to give up what that means in terms of money and business,” he added.
García-Siller said people can’t be “pro-life” and still support laws that allow these kinds of shootings. He said a “corrupt political system for years has undermined human beings”.
“If our ethics are not compatible with respect for human life, period, regardless of color, language, religion, profession, way of life – life is life – then we are not not pro-life,” he said.
Nineteen children and two teachers were killed on Tuesday after an 18-year-old gunman broke into Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, a small, predominantly Latino town of about 16,000. The city lies about 80 miles west of San Antonio. About 1 in 5 people live in poverty.
“What happened yesterday is one more expression of how we leaders failed,” García-Siller said.
“I spent many years in the United States and worked a lot with immigrants and in very poor communities, and it’s just, what else? What else can help us realize that we are people, period,” he added.
After the shooting, García-Siller went to Uvalde Memorial Hospital, where many victims were taken on Tuesday, and he led mass at the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart in Uvalde that evening . He planned to spend the day at Uvalde again on Wednesday.
García-Siller met the husband of one of the teachers killed in the shooting. The archbishop also spoke with a person who called 911 to report the shooting and made reference to a woman who drove children to the hospital from school. “We don’t need heroes. We just need people of goodwill,” he said.
While there was a lot of uncertainty on Tuesday as parents waited to hear from their children, there is now a “piercing pain” in knowing the outcome, García-Siller said.
Across Texas, a number of places of worship are holding prayer services and vigils to help the community deal with the aftermath.
St. Ann’s Catholic Church in La Vernia, Texas, is holding a mass Wednesday night to honor the victims and families of the shooting.
The First Baptist Church of Brackettville is holding a candlelight prayer vigil on Wednesday evening. Reverend YJ Jimenez, the pastor there, accompanied parishioners to the hospital who lost their grandson in the shooting.
Getty Street Church of Christ in Uvalde is also holding a prayer vigil on Wednesday for the surrounding community.
And in Houston, faith leaders are planning an interfaith gathering outside the National Rifle Association’s annual convention this Friday.
Megan Hansen, a Presbyterian Church elder, and Reverend Teresa Kim Pecinovsky, a pastor and chaplain to the Disciples of Christ in Houston, learned about the convention in the aftermath of the Uvalde massacre and felt called to act. .
Pecinovsky said those who support the NRA and the gun lobbying industry “are very much rooted in their own religious perspective.”
“It is important for us as clergy and believers to say that this is not the only perspective of people with a religious outlook,” she said.
Living in Texas, Hansen said, “we’re surrounded by so much of this ‘God and guns’ thinking.”
“I’m not even going to call it theology, because I don’t understand how you could think of the divine, and not just in Christianity, but many ways that people viewed the creation of the world and the Creator and be able to reconcile that with owning a gun,” Hansen said.
Hansen added, “It really is a Christian problem. This is one of the reasons we want to witness this, walking with our other religious communities, because this is our problem. It comes from inside our house. “