Our faith compels us to say: Black lives matter

As people of faith, we are united in our shared belief that all human life is deserving of dignity. Our various traditions compel us to confront the forces that seek to strip us of our humanity. This past weekend, in the Christian tradition, we celebrated the feast of Pentecost, when the resurrected Christ appeared before his grieving disciples and breathed out peace upon them. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., reminds us: “Peace is not merely the absence of tension, but the presence of justice.” Our nation has much work to do to achieve the justice necessary for a lasting peace.

We share in the outrage and grief over the murders of George Floyd in Minnesota, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and the countless others whose names we do not know. In response, we say loudly: Black Lives Matter.

But words are not enough. We are mindful that the brutal acts of violence committed against black communities are not merely unfortunate accidents. They are, rather, the inevitable product of a system that strips the humanity and dignity from black people, as it has since our nation was built with the labor of stolen black bodies. Alaska is not exempt from this legacy.

According to the Mapping Police Violence Project, per capita, Alaska has the second highest rate of police killings, and the second highest rate of police killings of black people. We call on our leaders to confront the reality of the racist systems that hurt our black and brown brothers and sisters.

As Anchorage holds peaceful public gatherings in solidarity with the unrest unfolding across the Lower 48 and in recognition of the shortcomings of our own community, we encourage those who are able to safely attend to show up. If you are not able to physically attend gatherings we encourage you to get in touch with your elected officials and voice your thoughts. Our faith compels us to act.

We pray for the comfort of the families whose loved ones have been taken from them, we pray that the many people who are peacefully demanding change continue to receive wisdom and courage, and we pray, as the prophet Amos does, that we see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteousness.

Rebecca Gramm is the Board President of Anchorage Faith and Action — Congregations Together (AFACT). Jim Bell is the Vice President of the Board for AFACT. This op-ed is cosigned by Pat Hayward, Lillian Marvin, Karol Libbey, Gloria Eldridge and Phyllis Rude, AFACT board members.

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