Image Credit: Global Issues
Let’s Start Local…
For the past few months, I’ve been thinking about the overt racism that seems to have found increased acceptance in our society. Let’s not kid ourselves — there was always racism in our society, but it was generally more covert. At least, that is my privileged perspective as a white woman who lives on an island that, until very recently, was populated almost exclusively by white people. Most of my exposure to people of other races was on TV and in movies — and we’re probably all aware of just how biased and full of stereotypes those can be!
I’m quite sure that visible minorities across Canada would quickly tell me that they have experienced and continue to experience overt racism on a regular basis. Atlantic Canadians don’t have to go very far find clear evidence of racism. Even the United Nations has noted Nova Scotia’s track record of systemic racism against African-Canadians in a recent report.
I have been very disturbed by the unapologetic racist sentiments we are seeing with greater frequency in the news and on social media. I am pleased to say that I am not the only one. At Oasis 2017, our Atlantic Baptist family approved the following statement that was recently released to all of our churches and to the public:
“The Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada has already made and welcomed resolutions against racism. In full view of the love of God, and in light of such passages as John 13:34-35, Genesis 1:27, and Galatians 3:28, we as a Baptist Family reject all forms of racism and hateful ideologies opposed to the Gospel, including, but not limited to, contemporary expressions of white supremacy.”
…And Go Global
The issue of racism is a worldwide problem. It’s not hard to think of all kinds of acts of racism that have occurred both historically and recently. One of the most obvious historical examples of racism is the Holocaust and the refusal of many countries, including Canada, to give Jews asylum that would have saved their lives. A contemporary example is Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority called “probably the most friendless people in the world” by a UN spokesperson in 2009. A more subtle contemporary example is the inadequate US response to the ongoing crises in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands after Hurricane Maria.
I am privileged to have the opportunity to sponsor three girls who live in the developing world and to write to three other girls on behalf of their sponsors. Because of the worldwide nature of racism, I thought it was important to write the following letter to them:
I’m writing you today about a problem that plagues our world — the great sin of racism, which is the belief that one race is better than another. Every country, including Canada, has problems with racism and discrimination to one degree or another. Canada has laws against discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, race, marital status, age, skin colour, disability, political or religious belief. Unfortunately, laws cannot change people’s hearts; only God’s Spirit can change hearts (Romans 2:29).
Racism and discrimination of any kind is wrong because every human being is created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Every one of us has sinned (Romans 3:23). Jesus died for the sins of the whole world so anyone who believes — no matter who they are — can have eternal life (John 3:16). Everyone who believes in Jesus is joined into one Body and every member of that Body is equal in spite of their differences (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). God does not have favorites (Deuteronomy 10:17-19; Acts 10:34-35) and we aren’t supposed to have favorites either (James 2:9). Instead, we all have the privilege of being Christ’s ambassadors with the job of asking people to reconcile with God and with others (2 Corinthians 5:11-21; Ephesians 2).
I’ve included a picture that was taken at our Baptist churches’ annual gathering. It shows representatives of Canada’s indigenous peoples welcoming Syrian refugees sponsored by Baptist churches so they could come to Canada. War broke out in Syria in 2011 and millions of Syrians had to leave their homes to avoid violence. They have been homeless ever since. Canada and its indigenous peoples have welcomed over 40,000 Syrian refugees since 2016.
Some Canadians don’t want to accept Syrian refugees to Canada because most Syrians are Muslim. Since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, some people believe that all Muslim people are violent and dangerous. That’s not true. There are always some violent and dangerous people in every religion, culture, race, or country. That doesn’t mean that everyone in a particular group is violent and dangerous. And just because some Canadians are afraid that Muslims are dangerous, that doesn’t mean all Canadians are afraid of Muslims.
Canada’s indigenous peoples welcomed my ancestors to this land centuries ago and helped them settle here. We made promises about how we would treat each other as we shared the land but, to our shame, my ancestors broke their promises because they thought they were a superior race. Indigenous peoples are still willing to welcome new people to the land they now share with us. We have much to learn from them about how to forgive others who’ve hurt us and how to welcome others who are different.
How Do We Respond?
As followers of Jesus, let’s examine our hearts and root out any traces of racism and discrimination that may be there. Let’s repent of the times when we have actively and passively participated in racism and discrimination and make amends wherever possible. Let’s be Christ’s ambassadors, encouraging people to reconcile with God and each other. Let’s use God’s mighty weapons to wage war against anything that keeps people from knowing God (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.
So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.