People in Houston gather to protest outside of a federal courthouse Nov. 2, 2020, where a judge rejected a GOP bid to throw out ballots cast at drive-through polling locations. Election Day is Nov. 3. (CNS photo/Callaghan O’Hare, Reuters)

(CNS) — As election polls opened Nov. 3, church leaders joined leading faith-based organizations in calling for unity and peace throughout Election Day and afterward as voting results become known.

The messages focused on the need to overcome rising discord and anger that has marked the current election cycle in favor of greater tolerance and respect across the political divide.

Archbishop Paul D. Etienne of Seattle said in an Election Day message that the country has an opportunity to ask “who we are and what future we want.”

“I invite each one of us to defeat divisiveness with understanding, rancor with amicability, hatred with compassion, mistrust with greater willingness to listen,” the statement said. “Let us counter the downward spiral with renewed efforts to respect the diversity and dignity of each of our neighbors.”

Citing Pope Francis’ recent encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship,” in which the world was called to acknowledge the dignity of each person, Archbishop Etienne said: “It is this universal call for unity that I hope we not only hear but act upon.”

The archbishop lamented the loss of relationships between neighbors on the same street, social isolation and the unwillingness to “have authentic encounters and dialogue with those who are different than us.”

“We must remember we are all brothers and sisters. Our diversity is what makes our community, our nation and our world beautiful,” he said.

“We need to break out of our silos and take the time to get to know one another. We must recognize the good in each other and see how we truly are interconnected. This is how we unite and begin to shape the future we want to see,” he continued.

Without specifically expressing which election race he was referring to, Archbishop Etienne expressed concern that the outcome of polls “will inevitably evoke bitterness, anger, hatred and unrest.”

He called for a new response, however, one focused on “compassion and love.”

“You can recognize that divisiveness is not the answer for our future. Love is the answer. Love for our neighbors — for each other — is the answer. How can you spread more love in the world? This is the only way we’ll rebuild our communities and our nation,” the archbishop said.

An election message from Johnny Zokovitch, executive director of Pax Christi USA, was simple and cited a passage from the Book of Micah: “You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what God requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

The message continued, “In every action, including the choices we make today, we can witness to the peace of Christ in the world. Peace be with you, sisters and brothers. Stand together. Be safe.”

In its “Statement for a Peaceful Election,” the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA called “all Americans to come together, uniting across differences, to trust our electoral system, to be patient as we await the 2020 election results, and to ensure a peaceful democratic transfer of power after the election.”

The NCC acknowledged in a statement released Nov. 2 that Americans were anxious and concerned about Election Day violence and the peaceful transfer of power after voting results are certified.

“We lament that the United States has gravely splintered as we witness individuals demonizing their fellow Americans because of differing viewpoints and going to extremes to win at all costs, including undermining the dignity of those with whom they disagree,” the NCC said.

“We call for the love of God to be sown to each other and peace to be attained through the thoughtful acceptance of differing opinions,” the council added.

Saying the coronavirus pandemic and high voter turnout may delay ballot counting, the statement called for “unabridged patience” so tallies can be completed and certified.

“We pray that our nation will heal from the extreme polarization we have recently experienced and build a democracy that works for all Americans with a commitment to racial equity and justice, and fair and just access to health care for all,” the NCC concluded.

The executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference urged voters to pray and then be sure to vote on Election Day in a Nov. 1 statement.

Chuck Weber said attending Mass, praying before the Blessed Sacrament and reciting the rosary can be helpful as people prepared to cast their ballots because prayer can bring peace.

“It can be said that in many ways, our country is on fire with division. We pray for peace in our state and country and the upholding of the dignity of the human person in public policies enacted by our civil leaders,” Weber said.

“Please pray for all candidates and those who serve,” he added. “Please pray for our bishops and priests. We persevere!”