Missio Alliance and the Asian American Christian Collaborative (AACC) lament alongside the families who are enduring the tragic and unfathomable loss of their loved ones in yet another mass shooting in our nation. We grieve the loss of precious lives in the community of Uvalde, Texas; a horrific tragedy that comes on the heels of the shootings in Dallas, Buffalo, and Laguna Woods.
We invite you to sign this statement provided by The AACC:
We grieve with and pray for the families of Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia, two courageous teachers of Robb Elementary School who were brutally killed by the gunman as they protected their students. We mourn with and pray for the grief-stricken parents of the innocent children, all between the ages of 9 to 11: Xavier Lopez, Jose Flores, Nevaeh Bravo, Ellie Garcia, Tess Mata, Alexandria “Lexi” Rubio, Jacklyn Cazares, Jailah Nicole Silguero, Jayce Luevanos, Miranda Mathis, Amerie Jo Garza, Makenna Lee Elrod, Layla Salazar, Maite Rodriguez, Annabell Rodriguez, Eliahana Cruz Torres, Rojelio Torres, Alithia Ramirez, and Uziyah Garcia. They were killed in a place they trusted to be safe. May we never forget the names and faces of these precious fourth grade students who were brutally shot to death in their classroom on May 24, 2022.
As we join the nation in lamenting over the loss of life in Uvalde, the Asian American Christian community continues to mourn and commemorate the life and bravery of Dr. John Cheng who, on May 15, 2022, tackled the shooter at Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California, saving the lives of many of our elders, including his own mother.
As we still grieve the lives lost in Buffalo and Laguna Woods, among many other mass shootings, the tragedy in Uvalde is yet another devastating alarm demanding that we address the dual crisis of complacency and complicity in our nation that continues to foster suffering at the hands of gun violence. In Uvalde, the lives of innocent children and adults were cut short by a man who was able to legally purchase two AR platform rifles and a total of 1,657 rounds of ammunition within days of turning 18. He used 142 of those cartridges to kill 21 people at Robb Elementary School. Since the Columbine shooting in 1999, over 311,000 students have experienced gun violence in their schools, a place where all students deserve to learn in peace and feel safe. For more than a decade, the number of civilian-owned guns has surpassed the number of people living in the United States. In 2020, firearm related injuries reached a peak, becoming the leading cause of death for American children. In 2022, there have been 216 mass shootings within the first 140 days of the year. In the U.S. 41,000 people die from gun violence each year (that’s over 110 people each day).
Life and liberty are bedrock values of American civic life but one’s individual liberty must not violate the life and liberties of others. As Christians who have navigated political polarization in the U.S. as well as abroad, we are called to bring attention to the dangers and sin of political idolatry, especially when they lead to the destruction of life. As followers of Christ, our allegiance is primarily to Christ and His Kingdom. Christians must stand together to denounce all forms of idolatrous worship, including the idolatry of individual rights (and all its entailments) over God’s commandment to love our neighbors (Exodus 20:2; Deuteronomy 5:6, Mark 12:31). We cherish and value individual and personal rights, but these rights ought not supersede neighbor love and care for the vulnerable. While personal rights are important American democratic values, we find nowhere in the Scriptures a Christian tenet that prioritizes individual liberties or personal rights over the love of neighbor and their flourishing (Galatians 5:13; 1 Corinthians 8:9; 1 Peter 2:16). This is the example that Christ set for us (Philippians 2:1-11).
Few would disagree that what happened in Uvalde and every mass shooting prior are the result of evil. While some may say that laws cannot rid the world of evil, AACC stands firmly in the belief that every effort should be made to restrain evil actions where possible. Legislation may not eradicate evil but legislation declares which evils will not be tolerated in our society. We cannot be silent but must work toward developing effective safeguards against guns that are too often used to perpetuate evil in our schools, homes, businesses, and places of worship. Those who hold the belief that life begins in the womb must be consistent in caring for lives through to the tomb.
Due to their young age, many of the children who have been killed in or experienced a shooting have not yet had a chance to vote for or against elected officials, oppose policies perpetuating harm in our communities, or advocate directly for gun safety. But others of us can. The majority of Americans support stricter laws on gun purchases, and our collective action can impact the course of history.
AACC supports bipartisan efforts towards common sense gun legislation to promote gun safety that include but are not limited to raising the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21 years old; requiring universal background checks; passing red-flag laws; requiring licenses to purchase and carry; and banning semi-automatic assault rifles, high-capacity magazines, and “ghost guns.” We invite your participation in advocating for these measures that could significantly reduce the likelihood of yet another Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Buffalo, or Uvalde. We believe both Republicans and Democrats can stand together on this to protect our children and elders.
Two bills you can urge your representatives to support today are 1) H.R. 8 (Bipartisan Background Checks Act) and 2) H.R. 1446 (Enhanced Background Checks of 2021). Both bills would expand and strengthen background checks and close critical loopholes. They have already passed in the House of Representatives. AACC calls on everyone to contact their representative – urging support for these two bills when the bills come to a vote in the Senate. We also urge you to consider common sense gun safety rules that are being considered at the local and state level.
We also know that pressing mental health needs persist in the United States and within the Church. Mental health concerns ought not to be the burden of individuals alone, especially as the consequences of not addressing related issues impact entire communities. We call for a commitment to teaching skills to identify existing and emerging needs; building resilience through various strategies; and extending support to each other as a unified community. We call for pastors, in particular, to integrate mental/emotional awareness in their teaching and discipleship as a vital mechanism for promoting communal healing.
Together, we must bring ourselves to the sobering realization that the children of Uvalde are the children of us all. The brothers and sisters lost in Buffalo and Laguna Woods are our family. We must seek a better path forward, avoiding the trap of helplessness and complacency. We must not only support change in words; Christians must be willing to advocate for and mobilize toward a more just society. We must not stand idly by. Only then will we possibly emerge from this relentless, national nightmare of mass shootings with a different future ahead.
We call on Christians in every context to love all of God’s children in word as well as deed. We invite you to take every possible action to ensure the flourishing of our communities through a commitment to live sacrificially (Romans 12:1-2) in love and service of our neighbor (Leviticus 19:18), as Christ would have us live (Colossians 3:1; 1 John 2:6).
Pray: Pray for comfort for those who have experienced loss and tragedy directly. Pray for courage as our communities advocate for gun safety. Pray for peace in our schools, homes, organizations, and churches.
Sign and Share the Statement: This statement is a resource that reflects a Christian perspective on gun violence and safety. Share this with your congregations, organizations, networks, and friends and encourage them to sign it.
Contact your representative at the federal and state levels: 1) at the federal level, call for the passage of a) H.R. 8 (Bipartisan Background Checks Act) and b) H.R. 1446 (Enhanced Background Checks of 2021). 2) Ask where your representatives stand on the following: raising the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21 years old; requiring universal background checks; passing red-flag laws; requiring licenses to purchase and carry; and banning semi-automatic assault rifles, high-capacity magazines, and “ghost guns.” 3) Advocate that your representative push for gun safety measures by passing legislation that includes the aforementioned policies.
Normalize seeking mental health support within churches: Speak on mental health challenges from the pulpit and beyond, destigmatize mental health needs, reduce shame for seeking mental health services, encourage the use of counseling services, and make resources available through the church.
Engage in difficult conversations with grace: Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), don’t compromise on what is righteous and just (with special concern for the most vulnerable) (Psalm 89:14), work toward unity (1 Corinthians 1:10), and make every effort to live at peace with all (Romans 12:18).
Drafted by: Pastor Raymond Chang, Dr. Michelle Ami Reyes, Dr. Kathy Rim, Dr. Jessica ChenFeng, Pastor KC Liu, Jessica Min Chang, Lora Kim Kwan
Note: AACC President Raymond Chang will be going to Congress in Washington DC with the statement in hand on June 7, 2022 to call for gun safety measures. Once we release this statement, please share it publicly to show the seriousness by which the Christian community at large (and our friends) are behind this. We strive to make a strong statement from the Christian community by reaching 100,000 signatures. Sign and share the statement today.