I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.—Acts 10:34 (NRSV)
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.—John 13:34 (NRSV)
The COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged our country has been particularly cruel for people of color, who are greatly over-represented both in infections and deaths. On top of this disproportionate suffering, we have witnessed further attacks on our African American neighbors at the hands of law enforcement—capped by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. The dual scourges of COVID-19 and the continuing violence and death inflicted on people of color demand a response from people of faith.
In his 1967 speech, "The Other America," the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said:
Let me say as I've always said, and I will always continue to say, that riots are socially destructive and self-defeating. . . But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality and humanity.
and our state in response to recent news, but we also understand the anger and frustration of those whose voices are unheard, and we equally condemn the unprovoked and unwarranted violence committed against people of color. We express concern that some may be using this time to promote misguided responses of violence and unrest—and we urge this to end because it only serves to harm those who are already suffering. Finally, we plead for restraint on the part of our nation's law enforcement personnel to promote peace at this uncertain time. Being able to trust those who have been entrusted with protecting the safety of all will benefit everyone.
Looking at the larger picture, we decry a society structured since the genesis of our country to suppress the freedom, participation and success of people of color. While we recognize most white Americans would not identify as racist, we must also acknowledge white Americans benefit from structures and privilege built primarily by white persons, many of whom denied the humanity of people of color.
We call on white Americans to acknowledge that turning a blind eye or ignoring the failures of this system signals complicity. We urge participation in dismantling the structural racism that hurts everyone.
As we represent traditions that seek to live as the body of Christ, we hold fast to the words of scripture, to the callings of prophets who warned against injustice and arrogance and who called on God's mercy and compassion. We strive to live by Jesus' teaching and example, repenting of violence in our hearts and actions and learning to love our neighbors as ourselves. We denounce the actions of those who would use scripture as a weapon or wedge to divide people.
We challenge leadership at every level of government to promote calm and rational responses to the violence in our streets and to work for positive change allowing all equal access to education, employment, housing, health care and other services to grow and thrive.
We urge swift and fair responses to violence against our most vulnerable neighbors, including by law enforcement officials entrusted with protecting and serving all constituents—not just a privileged few. We urge all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, political affiliation, sexual orientation or identity, or socio-economic status, to stand together in solidarity and love, calling for a commitment to understanding and peace to safeguard justice for all.
In response to the killing of George Floyd and subsequent events, the Rev. Dai Morgan extends the following prayer on behalf of the Pennsylvania Council of Churches:
Merciful God, we need your mercy now.
Forgive our nation, the Church, and each one of us for our sin of racism.
The Lord showed the way of love and inclusion, but we have demonstrated hate through exclusion.
Lead us, that we might repent.
Inspire our nation, the Church, and each one of us to recognize our sin of racism.
The Lord showed the way of love and truth, but we have demonstrated hate through falsehood.
Lead us, that we might have awareness.
Stir our nation, the Church, and each one of us to overcome our sin of racism.
The Lord showed the way of love and caring, but we have demonstrated hate through indifference.
Lead us, that we might take action.
Heal our nation, the Church, and each one of us from our sin of racism.
The Lord showed the way of love and nonviolence, but we have demonstrated hate through violence.
Lead us, that we might have peace.
Merciful God, we need your mercy now.
The Rev. Elizabeth Bidgood Enders, president, Board of Directors, Pennsylvania Council of Churches
The Rev. Sandra L. Strauss, Director of Advocacy and Ecumenical Outreach, Pennsylvania Council of Churches
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