by Bishop Bob Hoshibata
Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,
Last night (March 16, 2021), eight people were killed, including six Asian-American women, outside Atlanta, GA. During this season of Lent, we weep and we cry out at the continued acts of hate toward Asians and Asian- Americans and of all people of color who have been victim to violence based in racism.
This violent act and others like it stand at the intersections of unnecessary violence against persons based on race, class, gender, misogyny, xenophobia, and fueled by the long legacy of white supremacy culture and imperialism both in the U.S. and beyond. Mainstream media is only scratching the surface on the harm that has been done and continues to be done. Unfortunately, the stories of many events go unreported because of the fear of retaliation and further harm; for not wanting to be seen as “causing a fuss”; or the lack of trust in those who are to protect and serve all people. This is harm upon harm and silences even further those who suffer.
We are reminded of our baptismal covenant to “Resist evil and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves…” Here is one tangible occurrence of evil that Christ calls us to resist.
We must speak out for our Asian siblings in Christ. We must take swift and direct action in calling out these acts of hate. We must confront the ways that harm presents itself: whether it be “innocent” re-telling of jokes, to perpetuating racist rhetoric related to COVID-19, or violent actions to innocent people, we must acknowledge that these are things that fuel bias and prejudice against those of Asian heritage. We must join others in putting a stop to the harm.
Our Lenten journey calls us to enter into a time of self-examination. A time to encounter the ways we have strayed from God, the distractions that keep us from that which is elemental and essential to our lives. In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has propelled us into a year-long examination. We grieve the loss of “normal”. We are angry at this unsettling of this struggle. It’s hard to feel God in this time. We are experiencing collective grief, collective sorrow. And yet. God is with us in this darkness.
As people of faith, we must be willing to enter into those places of discomfort in order to speak the truth in love. To listen for learning and greater understanding. To advocate for those who cannot or do not for fear of their own safety. To push back and explain why certain behaviors can no longer be tolerated.
It begins with me. It begins with each of us. Since last summer, the Appointive Cabinet has engaged in covenantal dialogue around issues of racism. We have explored texts that helps us to examine our own biases and areas of privilege. I have uncovered areas where I need to do more work. I invite you to commit to engaging in the challenging and on-going work of self-examination and reflection. As a Lenten practice, perhaps you find time each day or week to do this. Perhaps you invite a close friend or family member to join you.
In The United Methodist Church, the Asian American Language Ministry Plan released a joint statement condemning the rise of anti-Asian violence in the U.S. Rev. John Oda, who directs the Asian American Language Ministry Plan said:
“This ongoing, rising violence and hatred which sadly includes the recent murders in Atlanta of eight Asian American women – this violence is not just an Asian American concern. This is not an African American concern, a Hispanic/Latino concern, a Native American concern or a Pacific Islander concern. This increase in violence, these shootings in Atlanta are a concern for ALL Christians; for anyone who is striving to live out the tenets of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are a concern for all of us are seeking to fulfill His commandment to love one another. The United Methodist Church has a moral obligation to be vocally and visibly outraged at these recent murders in Atlanta and this precipitous rise in violence and hatred against the Asian American community.”
I have given my full support to this statement and have signed onto it with many of my colleagues in ministry. I ask you to read it and prayerfully share it.
The Desert Southwest Conference RACE Coalition has provided several opportunities for raising awareness and education about anti-racism. The 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge is an excellent place to start. In the month of May, the RACE Coalition will focus on Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage month. I, along with Asian clergy and lay people in our conference will share our experiences of how we’ve experienced racism in our communities and yes, in our churches. I encourage you to use and engage with all of the materials that will be offered soon on the RACE Coalition website.
I invite us to pray fervently for the communities of color, especially Asian communities, where violence has not ceased. Pray for those who perpetuate violence, that they may be transformed by God’s peace and seek reconciliation with those whom they have harmed. Pray for those who are apathetic to these events where their privilege and fear keeps them from engaging in the work of anti-racism, may their eyes and ears and hearts be opened and moved to action.
My commitment, our commitment to the work of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion must be stronger than ever before. In what ways will you join me?