Originally published in The Washington Post
News of last week’s terror attack — and that’s what it was — at the Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church that left nine dead during a Bible study session has rightfully yielded both our outrage and our sorrow. In the African American community it has sounded echoes of the bleakest days of the 1960s. In the Jewish community, it called to mind scenes like the more recent terror attacks on a synagogue in Jerusalem and a Jewish school in France.
Our collective attention, and the priority of our government officials, is and should be focused first on bringing as much comfort as possible to the victims’ families and communities and bringing the perpetrator to justice. But the next task must be to ensure that we’re proactively doing everything we can to deter the likelihood, or at least diminish the severity, of possible future assaults on houses of worship and other faith institutions.
No matter which religion we believe in or where we worship, we all have the right to defend ourselves and our communities from those who would do us harm.