VIDEO: Brooklyn religious leaders host anti-racism training
More than 20 religious leaders from different races and backgrounds came together at Redeemer St. John’s Lutheran Church to host its first anti-racism training of 2017 last Saturday.
“We believe that our society is more and more divided and we need to talk about tough issues like racism. Racism exists, we cannot deny that … and we need also to talk about institutional racism, yes there is racism in the church,” said Pastor Khader Khalilia of the Dyker Heights-based church. “It’s time for the church to stand up and speak against racism because we cannot be silent any more…”
This Oct. 31 marks 500 years since Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation, considered by Christians as one of the most significant events in human history as it marked the theological, historical, intellectual, economic and political identity of the Western World.
After five centuries, Protestant leaders continue to talk about the evolution of the church, including talks of diversity and openness of cultures.
Participants at the training shared their experiences with racism within their religious communities and how those incidents affected the faith of members of their congregations.
A majority of people in many ethnic, identity and racial groups in America believe that discrimination against them exists in many areas of daily life, according to a poll from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
White Americans are among those who feel their group is discriminated against, with 55 percent saying discrimination exist against whites in the U.S. today.
“An African-American lady came into my office … and she was in tears, she was crying. She said, ‘I went to a Catholic Church in the neighborhood three times and every time … people would not share the peace with me,’” said Rev. Khader El-Yateem, pastor of Salam Arabic Lutheran Church in Bay Ridge. “She said, ‘How can we be the church when we cannot accept each other because of our skin color?’”
The training on Saturday was led by Crossroad, an organization based in Chicago that offers anti-racism training for institutions.
“We are fundamentally led by people of color who are dedicated to working in partnership with people of white, our other contingency, in order to really focus on the business of the restoration of humanity,” said Rev. Michael Russell of Crossroad. “We are going to get people to really take a look around the context today and recognize that racism is alive and well, not too hard these days … but what we do propose is that there is a way to deal with that and then we talk about organizing at a local level and organizing within institutions to change that construct.”
In 2015, the Synod Assembly adopted a resolution to train as many people as possible in anti-racism.
Metropolitan New York Synod is the representation of the Protestant Church in New York. There are nearly 200 congregations across the five boroughs, Long Island and seven upstate counties.
El-Yateem said that as a person of color, often times he has experienced racism and discrimination, even within the church itself.
“I think that this kind of training, the anti-racism training will help us to break from these prejudices that we come with and to be able to recognize each other, celebrate each other’s identities and to welcome each other as equals in our faith community.”
Contributing reporting by Paul Frangipane