I am the youngest of three boys so I know what it’s like. And yet, my brothers were the first to step in if they got a whiff of someone else doing it to me.
The “it” I am referring to is bullying. Bullying is by definition the act of intimidating, sometimes through the use of physical force, of a weaker person.
By all accounts bullying has become a national epidemic. This may seem surprising to many but some experts suggest well over 50% of adolescents in a given year are bullied. However, with specific populations such as young people of color, those who live in poverty, and gay and lesbian young people the percentage climbs to well over 80%!
For many, the recent suicide of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student who jumped off the George Washington bridge after his roommate secretly filmed him with another young man, was a wake-up call to the impact of bullying. The reality is this is just one tragic incident that caught the 24-hour news-cycle amidst a long string of incidences that happened before and will come after.
As people of faith how are we called to respond? We commit in the Baptismal Covenant to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself.” We proclaim that we “will strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” As such, should we not stand as witnesses to those who would diminish another for any reason?
I pray our faith communities will not only be safe places, and places that embody God’s unconditional love for all, but also strong advocates those who are being oppressed or treated unjustly.