Thoughts & Prayers for Victims of Violence

Last night – in an act of horrific violence, the details of which are still coming to light – five law enforcement officers were killed, and another five officers and two civilians wounded, in what the Chief of the Dallas Police Department is calling an “act of atrocity.”  It occurred at a Black Lives Matter protest/rally in downtown Dallas, held following the police-related shooting deaths of two men, Alton Sterling (in Baton Rouge, Louisiana) and Philando Castile (in Falcon Heights, Minnesota), this past week.  One of the suspected attackers in Dallas is dead after a prolonged standoff, and three other individuals are in custody while Dallas police continue to comb the downtown area in search of explosive devices that a gunman alleged he planted in the area.

President Obama described the incident as “a vicious, calculated, and despicable attack on law enforcement,” one which transformed what had been an emotional but peaceful protest, involving hundreds of children as well as thousands of adults, into a scene of terror.

The tensions between civilians and law enforcement officers, rooted in incidents of racial violence that are at the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement, are real and continue to escalate across our nation.  It is these incidents that have caused victims and citizens concerned over incidents of racial violence to rally for justice.  In this context, we watch with horror as the brutal deaths of individuals such as Mr. Sterling and Mr. Castile, and numerous other men and women, occur and – captured on video – are transmitted out onto social and news media for all to see.  

Today, we also react with horror at the premeditated murder of police officers who are charged with the daily responsibility for enforcing our laws and protecting citizens – in this case, citizens who had come together in peaceful protest.  The senseless violence in Dallas has left not only a police department reeling, but an entire city shocked and aghast.

I ask that we please join in prayer with all those who seek both justice and peace, and who are working to achieve greater harmony in our communities across the nation.  Let us keep all those who have been the victims of violence, and those who seek to maintain the peace, in our hearts and minds during these days of sadness.  Even as we recognize the tensions and challenges that exist, let us also recognize the important role that law enforcement officers play every day in our communities.  Let us pray for the police officers and civilians who are the victims of violence in Dallas, and let us pray for our sisters and brothers who have died in police-related shootings and whose deaths give rise to legitimate questions about use of force and due process.  Following our University Mission, and fundamentally rooted in our relationship with God, let us all re-commit ourselves to the work of acting as individuals who are committed to achieving greater levels of real understanding, awareness, love and respect between people from different races, cultures and experiences in our community and our world.

Thayne M. McCulloh, President
Gonzaga University
July 8, 2016