Wednesday, 03 June 2020

Pastoral Letter - Racism and Police Brutality

The national leaders of the Uniting Church and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress have shared grief, outrage, and prayers of solidarity with civil rights protesters in the United States, where the murder by police of African American man George Floyd has sparked global anger against racism and police brutality.

Assembly President Dr Deidre Palmer and the Interim UAICC National Chairperson Pastor Mark Kickett have issued Pastoral Statements.

“I join with Christian leaders from around the world to express my outrage and deep sorrow over the murder of George Floyd, and the evil of racism, which gives birth to such acts of inhumanity,” said Dr Palmer.

“I offer prayers for the Floyd family and for all those in the US who live in fear and ongoing discrimination because of the colour of their skin.

“We join in solidarity with all those who are working for justice, equity and healing in the US and particularly with our partner churches, who are deeply committed to this struggle for justice.”

Pastor Mark Kickett described the inhumanity of Mr Floyd’s death in the US as "mind-boggling".

“Today, along with so many people and communities worldwide, I encourage us to be that light that shines upon the darkness of bigotry, racism, intolerance and hatred and to be that beacon of hope and life with a message of hope and peace that emanates from the Prince of Peace, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,” said Pastor Kickett.

“As Christians we are called to stand up against injustice and oppression. The Prophet Amos (Amos 5:24) speaks very clearly in relation to this matter where he says; ‘But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream’ – a line Rev Dr Martin King famously echoed in his “I Have a Dream” speech.”

The Assembly President commented on the US President’s inflammatory response in co-opting a Washington church for a photo opportunity.

“In the Bible, our sacred text, we hear God’s cry for justice for those who are living in poverty, those who are oppressed by unjust systems, those who are excluded and discriminated against.”

“For the President of the United States to brandish the Bible as an assertion of power over people seeking justice, is an affront to the prophetic and radical call of Jesus.

“The Jesus we know from the Gospel stories, calls leaders to use their power in service to others, to call forth in others compassion, justice and kindness, unity and community. These are the leaders, we are called to be and that we need in the world today,” said Dr Palmer.

Both Dr Palmer and Pastor Kickett urged Australians to focus their attention on racism in our own country, particularly at the end of National Reconciliation Week.

“Here in Australia I am constantly reminded of the journey that First Peoples, my people, have had to endure and are continuing to endure and yet the resilience of the First Nations continues to shine through such great adversity,” said Pastor Kickett.

“We began this National Reconciliation week by saying we need to strengthen our actions for justice, healing and reconciliation,” added Dr Palmer.

“This is not an abstract call – it is seen expressed daily in our relationships with one another in this country.

“It is seen when we:

  • call out racism.
  • tell the truth about the history of colonisation, dispossession and the undermining of First People’s culture, language and spirituality.
  • advocate for First People’s voice to be heard in determining their future.
  • respect and appreciate the culture and stories of First Peoples, and work together to deepen our relationships based on reconciliation that arises from justice, and leads to healing.
  • live in harmony with the sacred land that we share.

“To stand by and remain silent is to be complicit in contributing to a system and world that is against God’s intention for us all.

“What God desires is for us to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8)” said Dr Palmer.

Prayer – Dr Deidre Palmer

Risen, Crucified God,

We cry out for justice for the family of George Floyd and for comfort for all those who mourn his death.

Forgive us for the sin of racism, and the ways we fail to acknowledge that all people are equal, created in your image, deeply loved and of infinite worth.

Forgive us for our silence, and the ways we are complicit in racist attitudes and actions.

Stir in us vision, courage and determination to work for justice in Australia.

May your Holy Spirit fill us with your compassion and reconciling love, that we might walk together as First and Second Peoples in mutuality, respect and delight in our shared life and destiny together.

Through Christ, our liberator we pray. Amen.