US Churches seek ‘racial justice’

19 July 2013

REUTERS

After the verdict: the president of the National Black Church Initiative, the Revd Anthony Evans, speaks to the media at a demonstration on Monday

After the verdict: the president of the National Black Church Initiative, the Revd Anthony Evans, speaks to the media at a demonstration on Monday

THE acquittal last weekend of George Zimmerman, who shot a 17-year-old black high-school student last year, has prompted "a renewed call for racial justice" from the National Council of Churches (NCC) in the United States.

Mr Zimmerman, the neighbourhood watch co-ordinator for a gated community in Sanford, Florida, shot dead Trayvon Martin in February last year. Mr Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder, and manslaughter, but was found not guilty on both charges by a jury on Saturday. Mr Zimmerman's lawyers argued that he acted in self-defence and with justifiable use of deadly force. The US Attorney General, Eric Holder, has announced an investigation into Mr Martin's death.

The NCC said in a statement on Monday that it was joining "other people of faith and conscience in a renewed call for racial justice . . . even when the headlines fade, we witness every day in our neighbourhoods, towns, and cities how our culture of violence preys upon all of us, with the most deadly impact on the lives of people of colour."

The chief operating officer of the Episcopal Church, the Rt Revd Stacy Sauls, said on Monday: "Does this whole sordid affair lay bare the reality that our society values white lives more than it values black lives?"

A group of church leaders in Sanford, operating under the name Sanford Pastors Connecting, has set up weekly prayer meetings since the verdict was announced. One of the group, the Revd Charlie Holt, Rector of St Peter's Episcopal Church, Lake Mary, told the newspaper USA Today on Sunday: "Our call is to pray for our community for the long-term unity, peace, and strength of relationships. Our churches welcome any and all to come and offer prayer to the Lord."

An Episcopalian priest in the diocese of Kansas, the Revd Benedict Varnum, wrote on his blog on Monday that "we need to acquire whatever tools of anti-racism we can, and bear them with us. Because every bit that we can ease race prejudice makes it that much less likely that power will be used to kill another child in this way. The law may not be able to fight racism. But we can define the racism, and bring it to light when we see it, and . . . try to break down prejudice, piece by piece."

 

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