Ervin Stutzman is executive director for Mennonite Church USA.
I’m writing from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where I’m a guest at Mennonite Church Canada’s biennial assembly. When we gathered on Wednesday evening, we sang, “By the Rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept….” Several times during our assembly, we were encouraged to express lament for some of the things we were experiencing. My laments grew out of the tragic events back home in the Unites States.
I grieve the loss of two black men’s lives by police shooting – Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota. My heart goes out to their families and loved ones, and the communities whose fears of armed police are running at an all-time high.
These shootings carry the ugly marks of racism, a systemic and pervasive sin that runs deep in all parts of our nation. I cry out, “Lord, when will this stop?”
I am deeply disturbed that African American men and women in our churches, neighborhoods and communities – even members of my own staff – regularly face racial profiling. They are less safe than White folks on our sidewalks or streets, when even a routine arrest for an alleged traffic violation can turn into an occasion of confrontation and violence.
We must find ways to heal this wound in our land; we need a radical reorientation to transform suspicion and anger into trust and reconciliation.
As a White person in a position of power in the Mennonite Church, I want to call other White folks in this denomination to pay attention, to make space for the voices calling for justice and change in our midst, and to seek concrete ways to confront racism in our communities, our congregations, and in ourselves.
I grieve too for the police force in Dallas and the people who lost family members in the tragic shooting of police there last Thursday. I echo the words of Byron Pellecer, Associate Conference Minister of the Western District in Texas, who wrote earlier this week:
It is with a heavy heart and much pain that we ask you to pray for the peace and for the welfare of the city of Dallas. What was intended to be a peaceful demonstration in downtown Dallas on Thursday turned into a place of darkness, violence and death. We lament the loss of human lives and repudiate the acts of violence that have filled the streets and neighborhoods across the country. May the light of Christ continue shining through us in the midst of this dark moments in which we live.
Yes, may the light of Christ shine on St. Paul, on Baton Rouge, and on Dallas, and every place where violence has left its ugly stain this week. And may the love of Christ lead us together toward a future free from the sins of racism, oppression and violence.
May God have mercy on us all.