Making Sense of A Tragedy

KC Interfaith Leader Reflects On The Shooting in Olathe

A memorial outside Austin's for Srinivas Kuchibhotla A small memorial for Srinivas Kuchibhotla is displayed outside Austins Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kan., Friday, Feb. 24, 2017. Kuchibhotla was shot and killed at the bar Wednesday, Feb. 22. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

The Rev. Kelly Isola is chair of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council. The comments below were prepared for a vigil held days after the fatal shooting in Olathe.  

It is with a heavy heart that I stand with you today. The council is deeply disturbed and saddened by these violent acts.

We offer our condolences and support with our words, prayers, and our presence in the community. Our vision and mission is, and will continue to be, “we are building the most welcoming community for all people.” It is in this energy of welcoming that we stand in solidarity with you, upholding the values of respect, inclusion and honoring the sacred in all life.

When we are confronted with senseless and vicious acts we can become overwhelmed by confusion, grief and anger. Yet, this is the time of year when spring is beginning to emerge — the time many faith traditions are acknowledging holy days of celebration and commemoration. Spring reminds us of renewal, life, and carries a message hope.

The Rev. Kelly Isola

The Rev. Kelly Isola

I saw in a news story, that Sunayana Dumala, widow of Srinivas Kuchibhotla said, “I need an answer, I need an answer from the government. What are they going to do to stop these hate crimes?”

I wish we had an answer. Sometimes, as an interfaith leader, when confronted with moments of anger, grief and powerlessness, all I can do is invite us all to look within and ask, “What does my faith have to say to help me make sense of something that is so senseless and violent?” Perhaps I find an answer.

And then ask, “What does my faith have to say at times like these, about who I am and who I want to be in the world?”

Gandhi said if you go to the heart of your own religion, you go to the heart of every religion. At the heart of most every faith tradition and life philosophy there is a shared fundamental belief — LIFE IS SACRED — and it is through compassion, taking care of each other and ALL life — in whatever that looks like for you — that we demonstrate that sacred belief.

As humans, we have hearts that feel, which means — our hearts will break. But that breaking also has to be a breaking open, and that breaking open has to lead us to compassionate action.

Srinivas said, “Good things happen to good people… always think good.” So, that breaking open of our hearts has to let out the goodness that is present in each one of us. This is what our faith tells us about who we want to be.

Finally, I want to remind us of the words of Mother Teresa. These words have been my North Star for many, many years. “If we have no peace, it’s because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

One of the deepest human longings is the longing to belong, to be a part of things, to be invited in, and to be safe and protected. We ALL belong. Look around for a moment. Notice who might look a little different than yourself. You belong to each other.

Please know that in this time of grief, there is a place of hope, inclusion, of honoring the sacred in all. So when you find yourself getting angry and maybe wanting to lash out, remember the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council holds a light of hope and asks you to join with us in offering prayers for peace and healing.

I leave you with these closing words from a Hindu prayer:

Lead me from death to life,

from falsehood to truth.

Lead me from despair to hope,

from fear to trust.

Lead me from hate to love,

from war to peace.

Let peace fill our heart, our world, our universe.

Om shanti, shanti, shanti.

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