Internationals affirm that Black lives matter during the Presbyterian Week of Action
by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — Sorrow and outrage over the death of George Floyd and other victims of police brutality extend beyond the shores of the United States and around the globe.
“The other day I saw a mural on a wall in Gaza with a picture of George Floyd — a big mural of George Floyd — in Gaza,” said the Rev. Alex Awad, a 2018 International Peacemaker. “Why? Because the Palestinians in Gaza see that his struggle is the same, like their struggle. It’s the struggle for justice, for equality. … We want to live in a country where everybody has equal rights.”
Awad, who is Palestinian, is part of a diverse interfaith cadre of individuals and groups expressing their support for racial justice and the Black Lives Matter movement in a newly released video for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Global Day of Solidarity on Monday.
“Palestinians want justice,” Awad said in the nearly hour-long video. “African Americans want justice. Native Americans in the United States, they want justice. Hispanic people want justice, so this is the common thread. This is the bottom line, and I think justice is a biblical issue. You know, the Bible calls us to do justice.”
The Global Day of Solidarity is the kickoff of the Presbyterian Week of Action, a racial justice campaign affirming the value of Black lives and rejecting white supremacy and institutionalized racism.
The video was produced by Randy Hobson of the PC(USA)’s Office of the General Assembly and includes people like Zimbabwe’s the Rev. Lydia Neshangwe, a 2019 International Peacemaker and moderator of the Council for World Mission, who urges Christians to unite against injustice.
“Gone are the days when we’re supposed to practice quiet diplomacy about spiritual things,” said Neshangwe, an ordained minister of the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa. “We need to speak out when it comes to spiritual things about people’s lives, about human rights. … If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”
The video features several alumni of the International Peacemakers program, which is part of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Their statements were excerpted from interviews and discussion in the upcoming 2020 International Peacemaker Virtual Symposium.
“Latinx people stand and walk and scream along with those who march daily demanding equality and a stop to institutional racism,” said the Rev. Dr. Antonio (Tony) Aja, moderator for the HLNPC. “We also have faith that someday the words of the prophet Amos will resonate … in our country and the world that may justice roll down like water and righteousness like a never-failing stream.”
Demonstrations have taken place for months since Floyd died after a white police officer held his knee on the neck of the 46-year-old Black man during an arrest in May. The police-involved deaths of several other Black people, including Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, also have contributed to civil unrest and demands for police reform.
The video includes footage of protesters and the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be coworkers with God.”
The Rev. Deon Snyman, a 2015 International Peacemaker, said the huge outcry over Floyd’s death indicates that it touched a “very, very raw nerve” in a lot of Black Americans.
“I think we must hear the cry very loud and clear when people are saying Black lives matter” because there seems to be a lot of hurt from the past that “has not been acknowledged sufficiently,” said Snyman, an ordained minister of the Uniting Reformed Church in South Africa.
The movement “forces us to think more deeply about taking responsibility for the past,” he said. He also stressed the need to be willing to offer an unreserved, unconditional apology for past abuses.
“If there is one lesson that I can share from South Africa, it is that clumsy apologies are not worthwhile apologies at all,” he said.
To watch the entire video and see a schedule of activities for the Week of Action, go here.
The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program is one of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.
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Ministries: Compassion, Peace and Justice, Presbyterian Peacemaking Program