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Denver faith leaders call for action beyond thoughts and prayers after synagogue shooting

DENVER, Colo. — The reason one worships and has faith can be to provide a light during dark times. After 11 people were shot and killed during service at a Pittsburgh synagogue, people in Denver are turning to religious leaders for answers.

“People go to worship, whether it’s a mosque, or a synagogue, or a church or a temple, or anything in between -- we come to these spaces to feel solitude, to feel sanctuary, to feel safe,” said Iman Jodeh with the Colorado Muslim Society. “To have that violated is almost sacrilegious.”

Rabbi Joe Black at Temple Emanuel says he shared the news with his congregation during an early service on the sabbath.

“There’s a myriad of responses,” Rabbi Black said. "There’s a lot of anger. There’s a lot of fear. There’s a lot of concern. People are worried about the safety of our facility."

He said synagogues nationwide are changing their security protocols.

Rabbi Black says they changed security at Temple Emanuel awhile back, consulting with the Denver Police Department. He believes what they have in place is necessary.

“The fact that we have to spend money on security guards and on special alarm systems and all the various things we have is not how I want to spend money,” Rabbi Black said. “I want to spend money on education and social justice, on reaching out and helping people.”

Other religious communities in Denver and the city's police chief reached out to offer their condolences, according to Rabbi Black.

“This isn’t about where you go to worship,” Jodeh said. “It’s more about the fact that we’re all neighbors and we’re all human.”

And as communities across the country try to process this senseless act, and faith communities work together to heal, Rabbi Black says action is the only way to prevent this from happening again.

“An event like this must push us beyond ‘thoughts and prayers,’” Rabbi Black said. “And to really take a deep look at how we have been conducting ourselves, how our leaders have been conducting themselves. I think the issues of hate speech and the issues of easy access to firearms is one that we have to assess. And we can’t say, 'This is not the time.' This is the time.”

The president of the U.S. Conference of Bishops also issuing a statement following the shooting, calling for action:

"This morning violence, once again, struck one of our communities, this time in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  It is apparent at least eight souls lost their lives in a shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue. To our brothers and sisters of the Jewish community, we stand with you. We condemn all acts of violence and hate and yet again, call on our nation and public officials to confront the plague of gun violence. Violence as a response to political, racial, or religious differences must be confronted with all possible effort. God asks nothing less of us. He begs us back to our common humanity as His sons and daughters.

I commend to our Lord the victims, including first responders, and for the consolation of their families.  May Almighty God be with them and bring them comfort at this tragic time."
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