In a “Statement on the Shooting Deaths in Atlanta” released 17 March, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA noted reports indicating that six of the eight victims were of Asian descent and seven were women.
“We grieve for those who have lost their lives and send our condolences to their families,” the statement reads. “May the heaviness of their sorrow be lifted and may they find peace.”
The statement also notes that 3,795 hate incidents were documented by the Stop AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) Hate reporting center from March 2020 to February 2021.
Since the use of the derogatory term “China virus” was used for political purposes, “an alarming series of violent crimes and brutal attacks has occurred across the country while this hateful rhetoric spread,” reads the statement. “Historically, white-only immigration policies in the United States have discriminated against people from Asian countries which was most evident in the Chinese Exclusion Act in the late 19th century.”
The statement also notes that, during World War II, people of Japanese descent were the majority of those suspected of being an enemy and unjustly incarcerated in internment camps.
“We lament the fear and pain that grips the Asian American community and we stand in solidarity with them,” said Jim Winkler, National Council of Churches president and general secretary. “Racism is ensconced in our country’s history which is founded on injustice and white supremacy.”
A deeper poison
In a 27 March statement, the Asian American Pacific Islander moderators and vice moderators of General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church (USA), also put their sentiments into an official statement. “We are angry,” the statement reads. “We are frankly tired, fatigued, and exhausted.”
As they expressed their devastation, the Presbyterian leaders also condemned the violence and its roots.
“The Atlanta massacre and the reprehensible description of it as a sex-addict seeking liberation while having a ‘bad day’ are stark symptoms of the deeper poison that has sickened our nation since its founding, namely white supremacy,” the statement reads. “The list goes on and on.”
The statement asks people to receive the stories of Asian American Pacific Islanders. "Don’t speak, don’t explain, don’t theologize,” the statement reads. “Just listen.”
They also ask for specific steps in stopping the hate and violence. “Trust people of color to know their own experiences,” the statement reads. “Hear their stories and pain.”
The Asian American Christian Collaborative, in a statement signed by thousands, also called on churches to preach and work against racism.
The statement denounces xenophobia, stands in solidarity with victims, and directs Christians to speak out and make changes in their churches, schools, and communities.
The statement calls for people to “engage in whole-life discipleship in your churches, and embrace the teaching and work of Jesus, by actively combating anti-Asian racism from the pulpit, in congregational life, and in the world.”