The Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) of the World Council of Churches (WCC) organized a series of meetings between church leaders from North America and United Nations experts on racial justice issues in New York City on 29-31 October.
Experts included Achiume Tendayi, UN special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, as well as three members of the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, namely Micahl Balcerzak, chair, Ahmed Reid and Dominique Day.
The purpose of the meetings was to give an opportunity for UN experts to hear about the issues that churches both in Canada and in the USA are wrestling with in terms of racism, xenophobia and afrophobia.
The meetings were also an opportunity to discuss the intersectionality between racism and sexism, migration and populist discourse, mass incarceration and mass criminalization, poverty and limited access to education and healthcare, #BlackLivesMatter, police profiling as well as police brutality, the legacy of slave trade, and many more issues. The meetings were also an opportunity to share about the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA “ACT To End Racism” initiative.
“The meeting came at an important moment in the life of the faith community and broader society in North America. We are in a period of deep lament with the perpetual assaults on people of African descent in North America, families from south of the USA seeking asylum in the USA greeted by hostility as more troops go to our USA borders, and the tragedy of 11 fatalities at the hands of a gunman in Pittsburgh. The openness of the UN officials was moving and the keen analysis of the faith leaders was not only timely but welcomed by the officials. The faith leaders look forward to the next steps of engagement with them as we deepen our agenda of justice and peace with people of African descent,” said Rev. Dr Angelique Walker-Smith, a WCC Central Committee member.
“It is important to create such opportunities for UN experts to meet and connect with our church leaders and church-related groups who are spearheading the work on racial justice, not only in North America, but also globally. During the meetings, the UN experts recognized and welcomed the moral standing of faith communities and their role in addressing injustices,” explained Segma Asfaw, programme executive at the WCC.
“The consultation with United Nations experts on racial justice issues was filled with hope. Working together, we can strategize and implement plans that will dismantle the evil systemic structure of white supremacy,” said Dr Evelyn Parker, a member of the CCIA.
Participants also took time to visit and pray at the UN Memorial to Honour the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. They also joined an Interfaith Prayer Vigil commemorating the victims of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.