~ by Elise Ann Allen, CRUX
ROME – Nearly three years ago, a Black man named George Floyd died at the hands of a white police officer, sparking mass protests throughout the United States and beyond with demonstrators demanding an end to systemic racism.
The ripple effect of Floyd’s death continues to be felt, so much so that it is serving as a catalyst for this year’s “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity,” which will see believers throughout the world discussing how to join forces in fighting racial injustice.
The theme for this year’s observance will be a biblical verse from the Book of Isaiah, “Learn to do good, seek justice.”
The week will be punctuated by several ecumenical prayers and liturgical services held at various churches throughout Rome and the rest of the world, which will be attended by the leaders of various Christian churches and communities.
Materials for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were prepared by the Minnesota Council of Churches in the United States. Minnesota was where the George Floyd incident occurred, and where some of the most prominent protests surrounding his death took place.
The Council said the Prophet Isaiah’s command to do good and to seek justice was a response to the injustice and inequalities he saw during his own time, prompting him to speak out against political, social and even spiritual corruption by condemning the hypocrisy of those who offered sacrifices while oppressing the poor.
“Our world today in many ways mirrors the challenges of division that Isaiah confront in his preaching,” the Council said, saying, “separation and oppression continue to be manifest when any single group or class is given privileges above others.”
“The sin of racism is evident in any beliefs or practices that distinguish or elevate one ‘race’ over another. When accompanied or sustained by imbalances in power, racial prejudice moves beyond individual relationships to the very structures of society – the systemic perpetuation of racism,” they said, saying even Christians have at time been complicit in perpetuating “prejudice and oppression and fostering division.”
-reflection is needed to correct the problem, they said, saying the upcoming week of prayer is an ideal time for Christians “to recognize that the divisions between our churches and confessions cannot be separated from the divisions within the wider human family.”
“Praying together for Christian unity allows us to reflect on what unites us and to commit ourselves to confront oppression and division amongst humanity,” they said, adding, “the unity of Christians should be a sign and foretaste of the reconciled unity of the entire creation.”
“Let us be open to God’s presence in all or encounters with each other as we seek to be transformed, to dismantle the systems of oppression, and to heal the sins of racism. Together, let us engage in the struggle for justice in our society. We all belong to Christ,” the Council said.
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