Heartbroken: On the Tree of Life Synagogue

“Heartbroken” is the only word that can describe our emotions after this weekend’s horrifying massacre of eleven souls at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. For all of us who gain strength from faith in God, who build lives around religious observance in His holy sanctuary, and who draw sustenance from gathering together to sanctify life’s passages, this crime was nothing less than a desecration before the eyes of man and God.

Heartbroken is the word to describe our reaction on reading the profiles of the eleven victims: all people in the later stages of life. Two brothers devoted to each other; an elderly couple; a widow; a beloved physician; a woman of 97 years; and the others who all shared a common gentleness, piety, and desire to help others. Our own faithful communities are blessed with people of the same graceful character.

Heartbroken is the emotion we as Armenian Christians share with our Jewish brothers and sisters as, not for the first time, we grieve together over the re-opening of age-old wounds, received when our respective peoples were subjected to persecution and death from those who felt hatred towards our very existence.

Heartbroken is the feeling aroused by the sight of our country’s descent into a fractious, contentious public life. Against that ugly reality, we must hope and pray that people of good will can come together—at the very least—in humble, prayerful respect for the dead, and in sympathy with their grieving loved ones.

Whatever else divides Americans at this time, we should be able to affirm with one voice that those eleven gentle souls, gathered in a house of worship on their Sabbath day, surely did not deserve to have their lives ended in terror and violence. Perhaps agreement on that fundamental premise would be the first step to a more humane public discourse. Until then, we must lift our broken-hearted prayers to the risen Lord Jesus Christ, consoled in the knowledge that His heart, too, has been broken.

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