By Rev. Dr. Todd F. Eklof, The Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane

What a privilege it was to moderate during PJALS’ February 7th panel discussion on violence. We don’t hear about most the violence that occurs every day in our country or in our communities, but the recent and terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, as well as those in places like Aurora, Colorado, the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, and far too many others, have reminded us all that something must be done now! So, firstly, thanks to PJALS for recognizing the urgency and the need to begin a conversation about this in our own community.

Thanks also to the excellent panelists who offered their wisdom and experience to help make the gathering so worthwhile. Bill Morlin, a writer for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s blog, Hatewatch, and a former longtime reporter for the Spokesman-Review, brought his years of experience covering extremists and hate groups to the conversation. He also, as always, gave us honesty, hard as it is to hear at times. Sandra Williams, a writer, filmmaker, and activist, who has worked extensively on issues of discrimination and oppression, reminded us that violence isn’t restricted to just gun-violence, but exists wherever injustice does. She also reminded us that peace begins with each one of us. Tim Conner, Communications Director at the Center for Justice, and an accomplished journalist in his own right, brought great professional insight to the conversation, but also many touching personal accounts. No matter how distant, violence is always personal! Dr. Jacob Kamp, a professional and experienced psychiatrist, added a level of compassion in helping us to understand some of the root causes of violence. He also cautioned us about jumping to conclusions about the mental wellbeing of others, or marginalizing those we label as “mentally ill.” And Victoria Redstarr, with The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, taught us that violence is as much a spiritual problem as anything, to be countered only by realizing our oneness and solidarity with others. Violence stems from a false sense of separation and the solution is in recognizing All Our Relations.

Finally, I’m appreciative of everyone from the community who showed up to participate in this important conversation. The fact that so many concerned and compassionate people are out there working to make a difference is reason enough for hope.