August 17, 2017

While the tragic and hate-filled events in Charlottesville were taking place this past weekend, I was with my family preparing to bury my brother, Col. Patrick Cunningham, at Arlington National Cemetery. I must admit it has taken some time for me to process fully the events of the weekend. Personally, I grieve the death of my brother who lived his whole life defending the freedoms guaranteed to the American people. At the same time, I am overwhelmed by the news of the deadly turn of events during a white nationalist rally. The irony is palpable.

Our country was founded on the principle: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” (Declaration of Independence). Since our founding document was written, our country has been embattled for decades to ensure that these basic rights are guaranteed to all.

We have made great strides in the advancement of civil rights but the events of this past weekend again remind us that evil and hate very much exist in our world. What we witnessed in Charlottesville was not an example of free speech by white supremacists nor a peaceful protest or an academic debate. It was a demonstration of pure hate, plain and simple. This act of hate resulted in personal injuries and even the loss of Heather Heyer’s life, a woman who stood against life’s injustices.

To ignore these acts or to try to justify the actions of these white nationalists is simply wrong. We must rise above it. We cannot tolerate it nor give the haters a platform of legitimacy. We must agree to dialogue on the issues of race and equality and strive to be honest about where our country began. It will take courage to move forward from this tragic event but we must do it together in prayer and love.

Most Rev. Robert J. Cunningham
Bishop of Syracuse

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