The United Nations has designated today, March 21, as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
On this day in 1960, police in Sharpeville, South Africa, shot and killed 69 people demonstrating peacefully against apartheid. In 1966, the UN General Assembly called on the international community to increase its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.
The Episcopal Church began formally combating racism with the mandate of the 1991 General Convention , calling the church to a nine-year commitment to address the sin of racism within the church, world and society. Two additional resolutions at the 2000 General Convention re-committed the church to continue its work with particular emphasis on abuses of power and privilege, and required the lay and ordained leadership of the church to take anti-racism training.
To mark the day, the staff of the Episcopal Church's Social Justice Office, led by the Rev. Jayne Oasin, and the Anti-Racism Committee offer prayers and a statement:
God of all peoples of the earth: we pray for an end to racism in all forms, for an end to the denial that perpetuates white privilege, for your support for all of those who bear the struggle of internalized racism, for wisdom to recognize and eradicate institutional racism in the church and for the strength to stand against the bigotry and suffering that inhabit the world. For these and all your blessings, we pray, O God, Christ Jesus, Holy Spirit. Amen. --- The Rev. Dr. Sheryl Kujawa-Holbrook
O God of radiance, fascinating in your kaleidoscopic diversity, help us to love ourselves as we mirror your image to the world. We grow tired of this struggle, Lord, and we feel alone in our weariness. Strengthen us when we grow faint of heart and give us a memory for the victories of our ancestors. Help us to remember a time when our forebears faced immeasurable pain with the sure knowledge that you were with them. Remind us that we are truly never alone. When we grow faint, gird us with your strength; when we doubt, fill us with confidence that the beauty of our skin, ebony, mahogany, lemon, ivory, and taupe is but a mere reflection of the richness of your glory. Help us to understand the gifts we bring into this broken world - the gift of your love of color and variety. This we ask in the name of Jesus who touched all and loved all. Amen. -- The Rev. Jayne Oasin
On this International Day for the Elimination of Racism, March 21, 2006, we pray that Episcopalians along with all Americans and other nationalities will continue the dialogue and actions to end racism. We pray that all will listen with new ears and a fresh understanding of racism, and its subtle and pervasive nature in our society and in our institutions.
We pray that we may also become a part of a groundswell of energy and renewed intention from all the people who are ready and willing to walk with Jesus and with all people of color toward justice, economic prosperity, and acceptance. We wish that all will continue these actions and through them move into reconciliation and forgiveness. Let previously unheard voices come forth now, joining our voices, and speak out about how racism and internalized racism have affected their lives. Let them join hands with groups of action of their choice. Let those who have eyes to see tell their neighbors about discrimination, intolerance, and the abuse of power.
Let us also be mindful that this International Day for the Elimination of Racism is for awareness, but that ending racism cannot be accomplished in a day or even in a year. It is a constant, lifetime's work. It requires each of us to examine the insidious ways in which we manipulate our differences to dehumanize one another. Rather, let us see in one another the image of God and celebrate God as a God of differences. Let us celebrate the glory of God's creation. --- Anita Parrott George, and Chip Stokes, co-chairs of the Anti-Racism Committee
For further information on the work of this ministry visit: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/social-justice.htm
Note: The following title is available from the Episcopal Book and Resource Center, 800.903.5544; http://www.episcopalbookstore.org/
TO READ: Race, Racism and the Biblical Narratives by Cain Hope Felder (2002, Augsburg Fortress, Box 1209, Minneapolis, MN 55440, $6.)
Felder's important work clarifies the profound differences in racial attitudes in the biblical world and now. He shows processes at work in both testaments that reflect ancient ambiguity about what we call race. He uncovers misuses of the biblical text (such as the so-called “curse of Ham”) in subsequent interpretation and shows how the Bible has been used to trivialize African contributions and demean and enslave black people. Felder challenges scholars and church people alike to deeper and more honest engagement with the biblical text.
Cain Hope Felder is professor of New Testament Language and Literature and editor of the Journal of Religious Thought at the School of Divinity, Howard University. He has served on Howard's faculty since 1981.