Susan Gunn, director of the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, joined other faith leaders in the Washington Interreligious Staff Community in sending the following letter to Congress urging Congress to address police violence and systemic racism. The Washington Interreligious Staff Community is a network of over 70 Washington offices of national religious bodies and faith-based organizations, encompassing Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Humanist faiths.
June 8, 2020
As faith leaders representing a broad array of religious beliefs and faith traditions, we are horrified and outraged by the killing of George Floyd and the ongoing violence inflicted on black people and people of color by unjust policing across our nation. Yet again, we see the persistent sin of racism that resides within hearts and social structures in the United States, where some people are treated as less than human, where police are too often a source of fear in communities of color rather than a source of protection, and where the sanctity of human life is not upheld. We echo the call of the prophet Amos to “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).
George Floyd’s death occurred within mere weeks of other racist acts of violence in the United States, and in particular part of a continuum of police violence in communities of color that has lasted generations. Our hearts ache for Breonna Taylor, killed by police officers who forced their way into her home in Kentucky, and Ahmaud Arbery, killed by white men while running in Georgia. We stand in solidarity with communities across the country expressing their grief and outrage, who feel their voices are not heard. And we join them in asking what will it take to finally transform our criminal justice system and our broader society to reverse the social oppression and violence directed at people of color.
We affirm the enduring faith-rooted teachings that without justice there can be no peace. We recognize the importance of protest alongside and as a form of advocacy. All levels of government must enact the reforms necessary to root out this country’s systemic racism.
We call on Congress to enact long overdue policing reforms, such as eliminating federal programs that provide military equipment to law enforcement. Congress needs to raise the use of force standard for police and require the use of de-escalation techniques. Congress should also deem excessive measures federal civil rights violations (such as neck holds, chokeholds, and other maneuvers that restrict blood flow to the brain).
These deaths occurred at a time when black and brown communities have already been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, causing high infection rates and economic devastation in black communities. The novel Coronavirus pandemic has made plain the systemic injustices perpetuated against communities of color.
Accordingly, we call on Congress to enact laws that reverse policies that perpetuate the racial income and wealth gap in our nation – a gap that has existed from slavery and is as wide today as it was in the late 1960s.i Even the CARES Act, a crucial response to COVID-19, demonstrates a policy bias toward the wealthy by giving 43,000 millionaire households more money than was given to all of the hospitals in dire need.ii
Our country has never fully atoned for its original sin of slavery and the preceding centuries of racial discrimination in law and in culture. We as a people must come out of COVID-19 crisis, out of the racist events in Minneapolis, Louisville, and around the country resolved to repair past damages done to people of color in the United States as a result of slavery and systemic racism.
Justice can no longer be denied. The stain of a racist system perpetuates violence on black and brown people in the United States each day. We as people of faith are duly bound to follow a spiritual call not to conform but to transform our society by the power of God’s love working through us.
We are holding you in our prayers.
R. Aura Kanegis
Director, Office of Public Policy and Advocacy, American Friends Service Committee
Director of US Advocacy
American Jewish World Service
Rev. David Beckmann
Bread for the World
Center on Conscience & War
Rev. Mark Stevenson
Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice and Race Relations
Rev. Nathan Hosler, Ph.D. Director, Office of Peacebuilding and Policy Church of the Brethren
Director of Advocacy
Church World Service
Scott Wright Director Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach
Sr. Brigid Lawlor, RGS
Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd
Rev. Dr. Ken Brooker Langston Executive Director Disciples Center for Public Witness (Disciples of Christ)
Leslie G. Woods
Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice
Rebecca Linder Blachly,
Director, Office of Government Relations
The Episcopal Church
Rev. Amy Reumann
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Rev. Jennifer Butler
Faith in Public Life
Franciscan Action Network
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Rev. Dr. Susan Henry Crowe
General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church
Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed
Islamic Society of North America
Melanie Roth Gorelick
Senior Vice President
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Sr. Ann Scholz, SSND
Associate Director for Social Mission
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach Director, Washington Office
Mennonite Central Committee U.S.
Rev. Séamus P Finn OMI
Director, OMI JPIC Office
Missionary Oblates USP
National Advocacy Center of the Good Shepherd
President and General Secretary
National Council of Church of Christ in the USA
Rev. Ron Stief
Executive Director, National Religious Campaign Against Torture
Sr. Simone Campbell, SSS
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
Pax Christi USA
Rev. Jimmie R. Hawkins
Director, Office of Public Witness, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Justice Team
(Pablo) Pavel DeJesús
Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice (UUSJ)
Rabbi Jonah Pesner
Union for Reform Judaism.
Director of Washington Office
United Church of Christ
ii Joint Committee on Taxation, https://www.jct.gov/publications.html?func=startdown&id=5255; Americans for Tax Fairness, https://americansfortaxfairness.org/wp-content/uploads/NOL-Ed-Board-Memo...