Christian leaders reflect on faith, safety during Boston manhunt

(Photo: Lucas Jackson / Reuters)Law enforcement officials stand at the scene on Franklin St. as the search for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, comes to an end in Watertown, Massachusetts April 19, 2013.

Christian leaders offered reflections on faith, safety and peace in the midst of a massive Boston manhunt on Friday for a suspected terrorist that left streets of the city deserted as people locked themselves in.

As police and other government law enforcement agencies performed door to door searches for a suspect expected to be armed and dangerous, streets were virtually deserted as civic officials urged residents to stay indoors for their own safety.

"Where is a safe place now? Our safe place is trusting in the promise that God will hold you in love forever," said the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in a video statement.

"Wherever you are tonight. Wherever you are in your feelings after this tumultuous week. Even if you're behind locked doors, the promise is Christ is with you," he said.

He message also emphasized God's presence.

"Wherever you go tomorrow, the risen Christ goes ahead of you to meet you. Because there are no God-forsaken places and there are no God-forgotten people."

"Tonight be held in the confidence of your faith," he said.

Just three days earlier, two suspects allegedly detonated two pressure cooker bombs near the finish line of Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring over 170.

After authorities released images of the suspects late Thursday, police say a suspect shot to death a police officer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Police say the suspects also engaged in a shootout with officers and threw pipe bombs at their pursuers.

The Rev. Robert M. Randolph, a chaplain at MIT and ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, said in a blog post on Friday that locked in students were paying close attention to the happenings and were even listening to police scanners online.

He asked: "Can we ever be safe again?"

The situation was "personal," he said, noting an MIT student was the baby sitter of the youngest victim of the attack and a young woman from China who also died in the attack had participated in a retreat with MIT students.

"Tears came easily –for all of us," he said.

He acknowledged that especially after the death of the school officer "[i]t is not so easy to simply reflect when it is so close to home."

Yet he described a key event in the Christian faith in relation to the day's events.

"Christianity came into being on the occasion of great pain and suffering. A family lost an eldest son. A mother watched and wept," he said. "That is where we are now. Watching, waiting and weeping. I hear the sirens again. We are still locked down and it shows no sign of abating."

He also noted a Muslim leader called him to express his community's worry that the hatred he feared might surface.

"If it does then we are no better than those who have harmed us," Rev. Randolph said.

He said the experience allowed him and others to know the fear people in Israel, Iraq, and Afghanistan experience when doing everyday activities.

"Around the world there are families who never know the kind of peace we take for granted," he said.

"At 4 PM I have a wedding rehearsal. Maybe that is the way to derive meaning from days like today," he said. "Look evil in the eye, affirm your love for one another and step forward. That takes a courage that can banish fear."

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