In view of the recent prevalence of racism and violence particularly toward Asian people in Canada and the USA, and the subsequent cry for justice, what is God's invitation to us as a Vineyard Family?
We know God hears the cry of the oppressed. Psalm 10:18 says, "You will hear the cries of the oppressed and the orphans; you will judge in their favor, so that mortal men may cause terror no more." The Exodus narrative tells us God heard the cries of his people who were suffering oppression, and he delivered them. Throughout scripture this narrative is then highlighted as God's call to his people to always respond to the cries of the oppressed in the same way He responded to them. He heard them. He intervened on their behalf. He took action to rescue them from their oppressor. This is God's heart for justice, and he invites us to respond with his heart to the cries of the oppressed around us.
Sometimes we become numb to the pain we hear. Maybe we are too preoccupied with other things. Or we think it doesn't apply to our context. It must be someone else's responsibility. Or perhaps we're overwhelmed and don't know where to begin. The first and most important step is to choose to stand in solidarity by acknowledging what has happened is wrong. And then respond with God's heart by committing to listen, lament, learn, and speak out against racism, violence, and hate crimes. We want our churches to be signposts of Jesus' kingdom that look radically different than the social realities of the world.
Have you reached out to Asian people in your church community or neighbourhood to ask how they have been impacted by the recent violence on the news or to let them know you are praying for them? They might be "done" with educating privileged people about racism in Canada but it's important that we find ways to hear their voices in our church communities. Please take some time to educate yourself about racism in Canada. Find out whether people have experienced racism in your church community. What are your BIPOC friends sensing or hearing from the Holy Spirit with regard to racism and the health of the Church? These are all important ways to begin to respond.
In Canada, anti-Asian racism has increased significantly since the start of the pandemic (see summary CTV Report March 17 and longer version Stats Canada). The Vancouver Police Department reported recently that anti-Asian hate crimes increased by over 700% from 2019 to 2020!
Many Asian-Canadians have described racism as a persistent sense of otherness. No matter what they do, how successful they are, what friends they make, there is a still a level at which they feel they don't belong, that they're foreign. This is exacerbated by the constant microaggressions they experience through comments like, "Where are you really from?" or "You speak good English!" or "You are so articulate." or even being mistaken for a 'service worker' at a professional event.
It matters that we acknowledge and stand in solidarity with our Asian Canadian brothers and sisters who have been subject to the pain and oppression of anti-Asian racism in Canada. This is what it means to begin to 'see' with God's eyes, 'hear' with his ears, and respond with God's heart. We must also commit to learning about the history of racism and oppression and, as the Church, acknowledge and repent for any ways we have been complicit in not confronting racism and for not speaking up about systemic racism, prejudice and bias, white supremacy and misogyny. This is what it means to respond with God's heart, as we speak up for the oppressed. This is how we begin to confront racism as we grow in awareness.
For more learning on how we can respond check out the US Vineyard Justice Network's response to the Atlanta mass shooting. For examples of how Asian American Christian leaders are asking for a response to the Atlanta murders read here. For more resources pertaining to racism and the Church please check out our Engage resources.
God gives us eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to respond.