Charlottesville, Canisius and the Task Ahead

August 17, 2017

Buffalo, NY - The events of last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia continue to reverberate in so many horrifying ways.  The reality of it all - Nazi-inspired sympathizers bearing weapons, torches and hate in their hearts, marching through a serene college campus and into the surrounding historic community, and unleashing a torrent of vitriol and violence - should have been unthinkable. 

Earlier this year, I visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, which does a spectacular job of tracing Germany’s descent into the evils of the Third Reich.  Throughout the chronologically-arranged exhibits are chilling reminders of the dangers that result when people stand by silently while the purveyors of hate, intolerance and bigotry work their evil.  Let us resolve not to repeat the errors of the past.

We must be clear and unequivocal: the views of the white nationalists, Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazi sympathizers and others who gather under the banner of hate and intolerance have no place in the United States of America including Canisius College.  I gathered with community leaders at the Dunham Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church in downtown Buffalo last evening at a prayer vigil in response to Charlottesville.  Let us continue to pray, as we did last evening, for all those killed and injured in the hateful events that took place in Charlottesville.  As members of this community - inspired by the examples of Jesus Christ and St. Ignatius Loyola - let us stand in solidarity with those who act for equality, peace, and justice and commit ourselves to love and tolerance of all regardless of race, religion, ethnic origin, disability, gender, gender expression and sexual orientation. 

But let us go further and aspire to make Canisius College a hate-free zone, where all forms of hatred, intolerance, and bigotry are condemned and prohibited.  As an institution committed to the education of young men and women and to the development of the whole person, let us use the upcoming academic year to look for ways to teach our students enduring lessons about evil in the world and their obligation to call it by name and to denounce it.  Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote from the Birmingham jail in 1963 that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  Let us continue to look for new ways to bring the campus together in love, tolerance and justice, and to share our example with the world. 

John J. Hurley

President, Canisius College