New Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory, along with more than a dozen other religious and community leaders, joined a Community of Conscience gathering on June 2 to stand against hate and religious violence and to read a declaration of nine principles aimed at restoring civil discourse, peace, and unity. 

The evening was part of the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) Global Forum 2019, the advocacy organization’s annual event. A hailstorm that hit the city that evening forced the event, originally slated to take place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, inside to the Washington Hilton hotel. 

Speakers reflected on the legacies of Abraham Lincoln, Harry Truman, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and called on attendees and Americans to join to mobilize words into action. 

The principles of the declaration read by the community leaders included equality, democracy, inclusiveness, peace, mutual respect, and love.

“Join us in pursuing the prophet Isaiah’s age-old vision that one day nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore,” Archbishop Gregory read in his portion of the declaration. “That peace, love, and unity will reign.”

Dr. Bernice King, daughter of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and CEO of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, spoke of her father’s legacy of love and how only this “weapon of love” can combat the hateful climate of the times. 

“May we all be reminded that love is still the only answer,” she said. “As we seek to create a more just, equitable, humane, and peaceful world today, we need leaders who, like my father, will let love fuel their work.” 

This love in the face of violence is at the root of opening channels of constructive and truthful communication and dialogue that can bring about external, legislative changes, as well as internal transformations, she said. 

Quoting her father, King said, “‘Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’”

Among others, speakers included Rev. Eric Manning, senior pastor of Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina; and Rabbi Jeffrey Myers from the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, communities that both have suffered tragic shootings motivated by religious and racial hostility. 

As the Community of Conscience was convened, David Harris, American Jewish Committee CEO told those gathered he hoped the event would be remembered less for the venue and more for the actions flowing from the words spoken that evening. 

“Anything is possible if we learn to pray not only with our heads and our hearts, but with our feet, and yes, our rolled-up sleeves and our hands,” he said. 

According to their website, the mission of American Jewish Committee, a leading global Jewish advocacy organization, is to enhance the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel, and to advance human rights and democratic values in the United States and around the world.