The Interfaith Families Project of Greater Washington, DC condemns the deaths of Black victims at the hands of police and others. We mourn the lives of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and all the other people—the names we know and the many names we don’t—whose lives have been taken by violence. Black Lives Matter. Through our actions we must treasure and safeguard Black Lives as essential members of our communities and not just express outrage when they are gone. 

At IFFP, we are made up of families of different religions and races. We know what it is to reach across differences of culture, traditions and viewpoints, and we have publicly committed to welcoming everyone into our community. Our faith traditions command us to fight intolerance and defend the marginalized and oppressed. The Jewish tradition teaches that each individual is created B’Tzelem Elohim, in God’s image (Gen. 1:27); and that we cannot stand by idly as we witness the blood of our neighbors (Lev. 19:16). The Christian tradition teaches us to “love your neighbor as yourself,” (Matthew 22:39) and Christian leaders like Rev. William Barber III tell us that Jesus’ instruction to care for “the least of these” is about those who are most harmed in the present day. (Matthew 25:40).

At our Gathering last weekend, we drew on a brief portion of words by Martin Luther King, Jr. We draw on an excerpt of his words here:

A riot is the language of the unheard. Riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. 

And what is it that America has failed to hear? 

It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. 

And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. 

As a community, we have often failed to hear. But we can resolve, in this moment, to do better. As our community inclusion statement declares: “We are open-hearted, loving and imperfect. We are, and always will be, a work in progress.” We are imperfect—we will make missteps as we move towards a more inclusive community—but we must keep moving to reach a future where all our members, and all people, may live without fear. We may not always agree on exactly the right words, or the right tactics, even as we all agree that every person has a sacred right to be treated as fully human.

Tikkun Olam is a Jewish principle that challenges us “to heal the world.” We commit to work toward racial justice together as an organization and through our Racial Justice Tikkun Olam group—one of our three groups central to our social justice response at IFFP.  We want to particularly invite white people to join us: taking responsibility for a just society cannot fall primarily on people of color who are already bearing so much.