ISSUES OF FAITH: People of all faiths show compassion

THERE CAN BE great inspiration found in people’s responses to tragedy.

Horrific stories of suffering have existed for millennia, but today, due to the constant availability of news and social media, we hear about tragedies from every corner of the world instantaneously.

It can be overwhelming and make us just want to bury our heads and not listen anymore.

Fortunately, most of us do not respond that way, and instead in every instance we find heroic acts of compassion to alleviate the suffering of the victims.

In the wake of massacres in houses of worship such as Sikh temples, Jewish synagogues, Muslim mosques and Christian churches, in every case people from other faiths have rallied to protect the worshippers or raised millions of dollars to help in their recovery.

There was a recent story about Jewish worshipers approaching their synagogue and seeing several strangers standing at the entrance.

Because of attacks on Jews in their area and synagogues elsewhere, they were wary.

However, when questioned, the strangers indicated they were Muslims and wanted to stand guard to protect the Jews as they prayed.

In the New Zealand massacre of Muslims while they were worshiping in their mosque, members of Jewish and Christian communities surrounded the mosque for their next Friday’s prayers.

The prime minister and women across New Zealand wore the hijab to show solidarity with their Muslim community.

Secular and religious communities have raised money to repair the destruction of Jewish cemeteries.

Coming together

Over and over we see examples of compassion and love in response to these acts of hatred.

In the tragic fire of Notre Dame, more than $1 billion was raised to rebuild, and because people reminded the world that three black churches had recently burned to the ground from arson attacks, $1.8 million was subsequently raised for them to rebuild.

People who train therapy dogs show up with their animals in all places where people are suffering, giving solace to those in need.

A woman bought all the stock of a closing Payless Shoe store and donated the shoes to the victims in the Nebraska floods.

In every hurricane, earthquake or other natural disaster across the world, there are countless stories of people rushing to offer their physical help, supplies or money.

Religious tenet

Despite all the negative news we hear, it turns out we don’t have “compassion fatigue” as some would claim, but rather we humans show an endless capacity for love and compassion.

People of all faiths and philosophies, all nationalities and ethnicities, not only respond to calamities, but many actively look for places in the world that are in need of food, medical help, water, sanitation, schools and shelters in order to help those in need.

Every faith tradition insists its followers take care of those who are in need.

There is no admonition in any religion that we only help those within our own faith tradition, or only those who look like us, or only those in our own country.

Instead, every religion has a version of the Golden Rule … we must treat others as we would like to be treated.

We are taught that we are all created in God’s image with a divine spark worthy to be cared for and treasured.

So the next time another tragedy threatens to overwhelm you, remember the words of Fred Rogers’ mother when she comforted him about scary news, “Look for the helpers. There are always people helping.”

And become one of those helpers.

Put the Dalai Lama’s advice into action, “ If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want yourself to be happy, practice compassion.”

One of the core commandments of Judaism, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18), is sometimes called the Great Commandment.

This commandment stands at the center of the central book in the Torah.

May we strive to follow the precepts of all faith traditions which enjoin us to love and take care of others, and thus with compassion and love for all, we can bring about tikun olam, a repairing of our world.

Kein yehi ratzon … may it be God’s will.



Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. Suzanne DeBey is a lay leader of the Port Angeles Jewish community. Her email is [email protected]

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