2005-02-18 Grand Rapids Press Churches must stand up for justice

Churches must stand up for justice
Grand Rapids Press

My friend, Dean Snow Wolf, a Lakota pipe carrier, shared a teaching with me which goes, “We will listen to your words, but we will know you by your deeds.” It also is good advice for those who attended Tuesday’s Ottawa Area Summit on Racism in Holland. This, the final of five such summits, leaves us to ponder the words and probe our souls on how we will carry on in the spirit of the summits.

Good deeds have been accomplished and will continue, such as the Institutes on the Healing of Racism, Diversity Training workshops. So, how will we in the faith communities spotlight the gifts of our richly diverse cultures?

I came away from these summits a changed person. I cannot pretend there is no overt and covert racism here. These community forums should continue to be held periodically to give voice to the on-going stories of how people were discriminated against, profiled, denied access, or ignored because of their race. We need to keep reminding ourselves, as the keynote speaker and Wayne State University Law School dean, Frank H. Wu, said at the Summit, that democracy is a process. So too is the healing of racism in our communities-in process.

The summits only are the beginning of a struggle. Dr. Martin Luther King declared he went to his own mountain summit. But, he did not rest there. He came back down to tell people what he saw, what inspired him, what drove him, though it cost him his life. It was, and is, the rue American dream. Equality and justice as guaranteed in the Constitution. But far too many Americans know this all comes at great cost.

The question for the faith communities is this-When people are denied respect, equality and justice, to whom will they first turn? A lawyer? Perhaps, if they can afford one. But, will those wronged by individuals or institutions know the names of stand-up, stand-out pastors and laity known for their commitment to “standing alongside” their neighbors until justice is served?

Will your faith family be so known? If not, I beg to ask, “Why not?”