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The following statement was coauthored by two members of MVPJ's steering committee in response to the racist zoom bombing of Christian congregations during their Holy Week.
There is a sickness infecting our nation, visible in the news every day, but which some of us don't personally encounter in our everyday lives. That changed last week when a group of peninsula progressive Christian congregations were attacked by "zoom bombers" spewing racist hateful messages and streaming obscene images, disrupting worship for hundreds of people. This hate and othering is all too familiar to people of color, including Asian-American-Pacific-Islanders (AAPI) and others in BIPOC communities, including Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs, as well as Jews. It made its way into the living rooms and sanctuaries of Christians during their Holy Week in April, specifically aimed at those followers of Jesus who happen to be among the most welcoming of diversity, fighters for social justice, and protectors of the environment. As a grassroots organization made up of many people of all faiths working for a more peaceful, sustainable, and inclusive world, Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice raises its voice of support for these congregations and calls on the rest of the community to stand up for them and each other.
The sickness infecting our nation is not just hate. Sadly, fear and hate have poisoned our planet throughout history. What has changed recently is the willingness of too many people to act out their hatred through words and deeds, seemingly unafraid of any consequences. As we have seen with verbal attacks against people of color caught on smartphones almost every day, with vicious attacks against Asians across the country, in places of worship that challenge white supremacy and as we saw with the capital insurrection, perpetrators brazenly carry out their actions as though they are entitled to behave that way. Perhaps, because of our collective silence and inaction, they are. That must stop.
Those who commit acts of hatred, verbal or physical, those who harm others, must not be allowed to simply walk away and continue their normal lives. We must confront them. We must intervene. But how? Across the country there are organizations offering bystander intervention training. I (Craig) can share from experience that this training is effective and the skills I learned over the years have helped me stop two very intense incidents from escalating into violence. I (Amy) can share that I have seen people at such trainings learn active, compassionate ways that empower them to embody solidarity in their lives. We can all, also, speak up when we hear someone make racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic or other hate and fear-based comments. “Do you realize how harmful that is?” or "Hey! Don't say things like that."
Finally, we need to reform how we deal with the perpetrators of hateful acts against others. While many chant "lock them up" in response to news of these kinds of attacks, members of our own communities of faith are angered by the hateful zoom-bombing we endured. But Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice joins the chorus of voices from around the world seeking to employ restorative justice instead of retaliation. The sickness we face runs deep and cannot be fully healed by locking away some perpetrators. We need to heal the divides that separate us, restore relationships with people who are afraid and isolated, especially those whom we fear and wish to be kept away from.
Those of us within the Christian tradition understand that Jesus was executed, in part, because of his call for radical inclusion, upending the status quo and, calling for the replacement of power structures built on destruction, greed, fear and hate and replacing them with love and mercy. We must now take his words to heart and stand up for radical change, radical love, and a new way forward. When faced with retaliatory violence at his own arrest, Jesus declared, “No more of this!” (Luke 22:51) In the Jewish tradition, we are commanded to “seek peace and pursuit it,” difficult as that may be at times. (Psalms 34:15)
As people of many religious and spiritual traditions, we too insist: “No more of this!” We are all part of the family of humanity. We must work together to heal this sickness. Stop the hate! Join us on the road to build a more peaceful, sustainable, and inclusive world.
Authors: Craig Wiesner is co-owner of Reach and Teach, a book, toy and gift story in San Mateo.