WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism and Intolerance, expressed deep condolences and called for a return to American values in the wake of a series of fatal shootings in the United States.
“I join the nation in mourning the terrible loss of life at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Saturday. This murderous rampage that targeted Pittsburgh’s Jewish community while they were practicing their faith is truly an attack on the entire nation — a nation founded by people seeking to worship in peace and freedom,” said Senator Cardin. “I am also extremely troubled by the murder of two African-Americans in Jeffersontown, Kentucky last Thursday, by a gunman who first sought, but failed, to enter the First Baptist Church, which could have led to an even greater loss of life. We are fortunate that no one lost their lives in the last week when mail bombs sent to people repeatedly vilified by President Trump were intercepted by our law enforcement agencies.
“These attacks underscore once again that words have consequences. Public discourse that stokes fear and sharpens grievances is not a policy debate and it is not problem-solving. It is hate mongering, pure and simple, and has once again resulted in the murder and wounding of innocents and law-enforcement officers. Hate should have no place in our society. Leaders must be held accountable for ending hate in our community by their deeds and words.
“As we express our condolences to the families and community that lost cherished loved ones, each of us must reflect on the importance of tolerance, religious freedom, and respect for all. We must recommit ourselves to protecting the good and the sacred in our communities. We must demonstrate through our actions and through our words that our society is stronger when we stand together, united against hate. We will not only look out for those who are like us but our neighbors and all those around us. I particularly want to thank HIAS of Silver Spring, Maryland, for their work in resettling refugees in the United States, as they carry out their mission of ‘rescuing people whose lives are in danger for being who they are.’ The perpetrator in Pittsburgh apparently targeted HIAS for their compassionate work with those fleeing danger in their own countries. This attack will not and cannot dissolve Americans’ compassion or dissuade the United States from safeguarding religious minorities, whether they are persecuted at home or abroad.
“At this moment of reflection, let us recall George’s Washington 1790 letter to the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. President Washington wrote: ‘The government of the United States … gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance…May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants — while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.’
“No person and no community should have to hire armed guards to safely express their freedom of speech, their right to assemble, or their right to worship. It is a fundamental obligation of the state to keep its citizens safe. I will continue to work across party lines, across my state, across the country, and across the OSCE community to ensure that all people live in safety and dignity.”
In 2015, Senator Cardin was appointed to serve as the first Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism and Intolerance in the OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly, which brings together lawmakers from the Organization’s 57 participating States in Europe, North America and Central Asia. As Special Representative, the Senator works to combat these issues here in the United States, and seeks to strengthen the Assembly’s efforts to counter prejudice and discrimination across the OSCE area.
The OSCE annually collects hate crimes data from the United States and other OSCE countries, which is released every November on the International Day for Tolerance at hatecrime.osce.org. Through the OSCE Words Into Action program to combat anti-Semitism and other initiatives, the OSCE has worked with countries across Europe and North America to address tolerance and discrimination and engages with governments on ways to ensure community security.