EDITOR'S NOTE: The Santiva Chronicle publishes opinions and letters on topics that are important to Sanibel and Captiva. They may be submitted via e-mail at news@santivachronicle.com.

As religious leaders on Sanibel and Captiva our thoughts and prayers go out to all those impacted by the horrific tragedy at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. But there must be more.

The Book of Jeremiah was written during one of the darkest times in Jewish history. In it the prophet Jeremiah asks, “Is there no balm in Gilead?” (Jeremiah 8:22a) Is there no healing ointment for the wounded? It reflects a real measure of despair. Is there no relief, no help, no hope? It is a question that one can’t help but ask in light of this most recent mass shooting, for it is far from the first. Is there a balm? Is there hope? Or are we doomed to suffer as hatred in its many forms takes innocent lives?

When anti-Semitism goes unchecked, when racism, sexism and other forms of prejudice go unchallenged, when mental illness goes untreated, when the backgrounds of gun buyers go unchecked, when assault weapons go unrestricted, then gun violence is inevitable. But there is a balm, there is hope, and it can be found when women and men of faith join with all people of goodwill and let it be known that things must change. Anti-Semitism and racism and every other form of prejudice must be considered unacceptable. Those who are mentally ill, as well as those who are mentally stable, must have access to affordable, quality mental health care. Background checks must be thorough and universal, regardless of point of purchase. And access to assault weapons must be severely restricted.

As the congregants at Tree of Life Synagogue gathered in Pittsburgh this past Saturday, they would have greeted one another with the words, Shabbat Shalom. The peace of the sabbath be with you. If such words are to be more than a mere greeting, if our sabbaths, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays or otherwise, are to be times of peace and rest, then we must work together every day of the week to be the balm in America. With the help of the Holy One we can make a difference. We can bring a measure of healing to broken bodies, hearts and minds.

The Rev. Dr. John H. Danner, Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ

The Rev. John Cedarleaf, Captiva Chapel-by-the-Sea

Rabbi Dr. Stephen Fuchs, Bat Yam—Temple of the Islands, Sanibel

Father Joseph Gates, St. Isabel’s Roman Catholic Church, Sanibel

The Rev. Deborah E. Kunkel, Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ

Mary Miller, Church of Christ (Scientist), Sanibel

The Rev. Dr. Ellen Sloan, St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church, Sanibel

Dr. Daryl Donovan, Sanibel Community Church