UNY Conference Commission on Religion and Race Statement on Racism Directed at our Asian Brothers and Sisters
March 23, 2021 / By UNY Conference Commission on Religion & Race
Isaiah 58:6 Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
While we know that some racial and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately affected by COVID 19, our Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) brothers and sisters face a particularly cruel consequence of this virus. Crimes targeting AAPI have risen dramatically since the beginning of the pandemic. According to a National Public Radio article, nearly 3,800 crimes and acts of discrimination against Asians have been reported in the past year. Authorities believe that because many of these crimes go unreported, the actual number could be much higher. The majority of the crimes impact women.
Last week's horrific murder of eight people in spas outside Atlanta, including six women of Asian descent, highlights an urgent need to combat this unconscionable rise of crimes and violence directed toward AAPI. While these killings have yet to be declared racially motivated, the rise of white supremacist terrorism, and the spread of hateful anti-Asian rhetoric, show an undeniable, and unquestionable, impact on our Asian sisters and brothers, and their communities.
Here, in the midst of our Lenten season, we are called to fasting and prayer. Typically, fasting is intentionally withholding something we’d normally partake in, such as food. The purpose of fasting is to create space in our lives to feast on the presence of Jesus directly. The book of Isaiah has a slightly different take on this concept. Chapter 58, verse 6 says, "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loosen the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?"
To remain silent in the face of injustice and oppression is to be in complicit agreement with those acts. We at CCORR join the voices of those who stand in solidarity against the horrendous, sinful murders in Atlanta, and share the grief and sorrow of our Asian sisters and brothers. We believe that as United Methodists, we have a moral obligation to be vocally and visibly outraged by these murders, and this precipitous rise in violence and hatred against the Asian American community. That means continuing to confront implicit bias and dismantle racism in any way we can. Here are some of the ways to help:
- Educate ourselves. In addition to the resources on the CCORR website and the website for the General Commission on Religion and Race, read the history and present day accounts of anti-Asian racism in the U.S. Asians face cultural and language barriers that other marginalized groups don’t encounter. If they are immigrants, Asians may also face legal challenges for staying in this country. Also, take a look at documentaries and news programs that feature information on this topic. Netflix's "Amend" series touches on anti-Asian history in its sixth episode. Consider, too, reading books by Asian American and Pacific Islander authors.
- Speak up: interrupt racist jokes and comments. Stand up to racist attitudes and behaviors. Understand that demanding appropriate action in these cases, and systemic changes, are about seeking truth, peace, and equal justice for all God's children.
- Check in with Asian friends and colleagues. If you can, offer specific help. In speaking to a co-worker, you might say "I know the news is stressful. Can I help you with anything workwise?"
- Get involved: Donate to, or work with, local church ministries and community groups with clear goals and appropriate principles on any issue of racial justice. For instance, supporting your local Asian restaurants, supermarkets and other shops can help the entire community.
As United Methodists, our tradition is one of peace and hope. We are called to love our neighbors in the presence of evil in the world, and despite the evil of racism, three Asian pastors in the Upper New York Conference see reason for hope.
Rev. Sung Ah Choi, who pastors Marcellus UMC, said that right after the murders in Atlanta one of her congregants started the church's prayer chain, asking people to pray for Asian American immigrants and families. "I was deeply touched by this simple act of racial justice," she said. Other congregants have reached out to see how she's faring.
"I see the evil living among us," added Rev. Joseph Inbeom Kim, pastor of Manlius UMC. "I see the victims of it. But when I see through evil, I can see the hope of resurrection in Christ. As a believer, I anticipate 'those days' coming when there will be sin no more and justice and peace will prevail."
"Life is a gift from God, and God is love," said Rev. Dr. Sung Ho Lee, of Aldersgate UMC in Rochester. "We're told to love our enemies. It's not easy, but Jesus tells us to take up His yoke. When we do that, we pick up the spirit and love of Jesus. The Lord will give us rest so we can continue His work."