Atlanta shooting prompts prayerful response
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul,
and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Psalm 13: 1-2 NRSV
The national leadership of the United Church of Christ joins the National Council of Churches in grieving the deaths of eight people shot by a lone gunman at three Atlanta spas on March 16. The UCC shares the NCC statement below, offers a prayer for the victims and their families and issues a call to action against hate crimes.
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) laments the tragic shooting deaths at three locations in Atlanta and the surrounding area on Tuesday evening. Reports indicate that six of the eight victims were of Asian descent and seven were women, deepening our concerns about the increasing anti-Asian and gender-based violence against women and girls in this nation.
We grieve for those who have lost their lives and send our condolences to their families. May the heaviness of their sorrow be lifted and may they find peace.
While we do not yet know if the shootings are hate crimes, we do know that 3,795 hate incidents were documented by the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center from March 2020 to February 2021. We also recognize that reported incidences represent only a fraction of the number of hate instances that occur against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) persons.
Since the use of the derogatory term “China virus” was used for political purposes, our AAPI neighbors have experienced a heightened level of discrimination and anti-Asian xenophobia during the COVID-19 pandemic. An alarming series of violent crimes and brutal attacks has occurred across the country while this hateful rhetoric spread. NCC stands with all who live in fear due to the discrimination unleashed on the AAIP community.
Historically, white-only immigration policies in the United States have discriminated against people from Asian countries which was most evident in the Chinese Exclusion Act in the late 19th century. During World War II, people of Japanese descent were the majority of those suspected of being an enemy and unjustly incarcerated in internment camps.
“We lament the fear and pain that grips the Asian American community and we stand in solidarity with them,” said Jim Winkler, NCC President and General Secretary. “Racism is ensconced in our country’s history which is founded on injustice and white supremacy. We all need to confront discriminatory acts and racial vitriol that deems people as ‘foreigners’ or the ‘other’. In order to end racism, we must dedicate ourselves to changing the hearts, minds, and behaviors of people in our churches and society to bring healing and wholeness to all.”
“I weep at the senseless loss of these precious lives,” stated Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ and Chair of the NCC Governing Board. “It is becoming far too easy for white men with guns to act on what they see as their right to purge from America people they have not come to accept as their equal. I am sick of that, and hope that every person of faith commits to ending racism and gun violence. I also cry out to legislators to take away access to the weapons that these bigots wield.”
NCC calls for members of our churches to be allies and co-laborers alongside the Asian community by including their concerns in our shared work toward ending racism and by challenging Asian stereotypes in their communities and networks of influence. Sadly, problems in the Asian community are often ignored because of harmful stereotypes which silence our AAPI neighbors when they should be supported.
When violent attacks occur and the perpetrators are found to have acted based on a bias against the victim being Asian American or of Asian descent, we call for their prosecution as hate crimes. To end racism in our society, we must name it wherever it emerges and do everything in our power to root it out and replace it with just, safe, and equitable communities for all of God’s people.
UCC leaders offer this prayer for healing.
They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. Jeremiah 8:11
“Holy God, we come before you, once again broken-hearted and grieving as we hold the hurt and pain of loss of life to violence. We come grieving the lives taken in Atlanta this week, families broken apart by the absence of their loved ones. We pray peace and comfort for these families as they attempt to deal with this deep loss and heal. May peace and joy eventually find them as they mourn.
“We pray for the healing of this nation. We pray your love will be experienced and felt by all, love extending to everyone regardless of race, religion, or gender, love that holds sacred and beautiful all live. Be with us in this moment of grief and loss. Amen.”
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