Originally issued on January 9, 2011.

Pax Christi USA condemns the violence which took place in Arizona on Saturday, killing 6 people and wounding 13 others, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Within hours of the assassination attempt on Rep. Giffords, a Democrat who had voted in support of last year’s health care law, the debate regarding the role that our current national political divisiveness had played in this violence was being played out in media outlets across our nation. Prominently noted was that Giffords had been targeted by former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin because of her support of healthcare reform, appearing on a map on Palin’s political action committee’s website and her own Facebook page with the cross-hairs of a gun-sight denoting Giffords’ district.

Pax Christi USA has consistently spoken out against the rising negative rhetoric that has marked our national political conversation over the past few years and warned of its consequences. It is disingenuous and ignorant to suggest that hate-talk media and the hyperbolic use of violent imagery play no role in this rising wave of political violence. The vandalism which has been perpetrated at the offices of our political representatives, the scenes of individuals carrying weapons at last year’s town hall meetings, and now the assassination attempt on Rep. Giffords are all part of the same cloth that begins with the irresponsible speech and sloganeering of media personalities and political leaders. Pax Christi USA hopes that the escalation of violence demonstrated in yesterday’s events will finally bring our nation to its senses and lead the American people to no longer tolerate such utter disregard for civility and for the humanity of those with whom we disagree.

Pax Christi was founded on the reconciliation of French and German Catholics following two world wars in which they had slaughtered each other by the millions. Respect for our shared humanity is at the heart of our proclamation of the power of nonviolence to transform enemies into friends. We believe in a God who calls us to respect all life, to care for all of our sisters and brothers, and to work for a world that reflects the message God’s son shared with us—a message of compassion, love, forgiveness, and peace with justice. Today, we pray for Rep. Giffords’ recovery, for the healing of those wounded in this tragic act, and for the consolation of the family and friends of the six who were killed—including a 9 year-old girl. And we pray too that this tragedy brings about a new era of civil and respectful dialogue in our national political conversation, where we recognize and honor the conscience and freedom of our opponents, and where our highest ideals—rather than our basest fears—govern how we speak to one another and how we portray each other.

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