We, the undersigned, members of the ACT Alliance North America Forum, a global network of Christian organizations and churches active in humanitarian work in the United States and around the world, are appalled by the violations of human rights and perpetuation of systemic racial injustice in the U.S.
The recent killings of unarmed African Americans, and subsequent violence, as well as this nation’s treatment of those seeking safety and asylum are unacceptable. We call on our U.S. political leaders to take all measures to eliminate racially motivated policing tactics and xenophobic immigration practices, both of which are inconsistent with international treaties supported by the U.S., as well as the basic faith-rooted principle of loving our neighbor. We call for reforms in policing at municipal, state and federal levels. Congressional actions must eliminate federal programs that provide military equipment to law enforcement and require law enforcement to utilize de-escalation tactics whenever possible instead of using force. In addition, congressional, state, and local leaders should end the immoral and wasteful spending of our tax dollars on institutions that separate families, militarize law enforcement, and perpetuate structural violence and racism within immigration systems. Instead, policy makers should invest in education, housing, health care, and other programs that provide opportunity and increase community wholeness and collective well-being.
As institutions committed to peace and justice, who spend time and resources working to ensure human rights of people around the world, we were dismayed to learn of the torture and murder of George Floyd by police officers who are supposed to protect the rights of all people. Unfortunately, this is only one of a centuries-long string of violent acts against black people. This time, however, because of the combined intentionality and casualness of the act itself, people throughout the U.S. and around the world are crying out like the Psalmist: “How long, oh, Lord, too long!” (Psalm 13). Collectively, although many of us, as well as many of the institutions we represent, have benefited from white suppression of black and brown people, we join in the demands for change. The world and its structures of power and privilege, including the structures of the church, have to change. That change has to happen now. In the spirit of Pentecost that spun the church out into the world in a new way, and as people willing to admit our complicity, we shout, “Enough!”
There can be no peace without justice, and that justice cannot merely substitute retribution for transformation. As followers of Christ, we will not stop until systems of policing do all that is humanly possible to prevent aggressive, profiled, and inhumane treatment of all people, but especially of black, indigenous and people of color. And we must also seek to transform the justice system away from a reliance on mass incarceration, often through private corporations, and towards a more holistic system that offers healing and transformation for victim and offender alike. As many police officials themselves say, police departments should not be used to address social problems, behavioral health issues and educational challenges. While supporting and funding essential policing that equally protects all people, much government spending at all levels should be shifted to address social problems directly.
The violent death of George Floyd, and the tens of thousands of African Americans and immigrants who either died in recent months of COVID-19, or are struggling with the economic impact of this pandemic, force us to recognize systemic biases and institutional policies afford access and privileges to white people such as better health care access and stronger financial and social safety nets. The U.S. Government must implement policies to correct these systemic racial inequities.
As Christian organizations and churches familiar with responding to crises, we declare racism and xenophobia to be a disaster masquerading as nationalism in the United States. Our faith traditions call us to welcome the stranger and honor family unity. As people who believe in change as difficult to comprehend as the Resurrection, we also have hope that real transformation can happen in our time. As one of our leaders put it, “a generation of steadfast young people just may be able to prevail.” We pray it will be so. Our hope comes not from words unread from a Bible used as a symbol of God’s supposed alliance with power, but from the word of God made real by people standing with and for the oppressed.
Church World Service (CWS)
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR)
Week of Compassion, The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada