First came Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on July 5. The next day, 1,200 miles away in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, it was Philando Castile. They didn’t know each other but they met the same fate at the hands of an officer of the law.
Three days later during a demonstration over those latest deaths, more tragedy struck, this time in Dallas, Texas. Five officers, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa were killed and seven others were wounded.
But the carnage wasn’t over. Sunday morning, July 17, Baton Rouge exploded again leaving three officers dead and three wounded. The Dallas gunman and the Baton Rouge gunman, separated by more than 400 miles, did have two things in common: Both were black and both were military veterans.
Understandably, law enforcement across the country is on edge. Understandably, the black community is on edge as well. How do we back away from this cliff? Christians are in a unique position when it comes to understanding this world and how to deal with its tribulations. Violence is never the answer.
Several ministers and other concerned citizens responded to the recent events with a letter published in The Telegraph on Sunday, July 17, and on social media sites. “Leadership in the home, school, business and community must be willing to stand for what is right,” the letter stated.
“The leadership that will make a difference cannot be driven by what is popular nor what is politically expedient. Leadership for what is right is not about profits over people, nor can it be about privilege or prestige. The burden of leading our communities and nation through these difficult days will not belong to someone else. We are the current torchbearers and we must complete our leg of this journey to build and grow our families, communities, nation and world.”
The letter called, not for a cooling off period, it called for change. “The great institutions of our society (the family, the church, the schools, the businesses and the governments) must be willing to change the things that need to be changed. The institution and the individual must confront the issues of character with conviction. We must challenge ourselves to be a part of the solution. Silence in a time of unrest is capitulation to the status quo. The very reason there are problems is because there are problems that are not being addressed. Therefore, silence cannot be the instrument that we use to make our lives better,” the letter stated.
“The challenge we face today compels us to confront hate with love and fear with an unshakeable faith. We do that by creating dialogue with one another in an intentional way. If the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step then we can begin to change things with a smile and a courteous hello, from officer to citizen and from citizen to officer. We do this by declaring truth about these issues from the pulpits, boardrooms and podiums as we empower and encourage others. We do this through cooperation rather than isolation.”
The letter encouraged people to get involved in the civic affairs of the city at all levels, “The voice of community leaders needs to be heard in every committee meeting, church, family gathering, synagogue, and any other meeting that is taking place to do more than fan the flames of discord, but also to let the refreshing wind of change be felt throughout the community.” In other words, get involved.
Fannie Lou Hamer’s famous quote, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” She had a right to be tired because she was a tireless worker in the struggle to secure voting rights for African Americans. Many have forgotten — or never heard of her and the people who literally gave their lives for the right to vote. One way everyone can get involved is the process of voting.
During the last election on May 24, Houston County had a dismal turnout of 12.65 percent. In Bibb County it was 31.63 percent. What the ministers and other concerned citizens want to see in the Middle Georgia area is continued dialog at all levels and for the area to become a model community in race relations.
The letter was signed by: Rev. Dr. Daryl J. Vining Sr., Hebron Fellowship Baptist Church, Bishop, Dr. Harvey B. Bee, Christian Fellowship Church, Dr. Tolan Morgan, Fellowship Bible Baptist Church, Dr. Johnny Ellison, Pastor, Green Acres Baptist Church, Pastor Paul Little II, Bibb Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Pastor David A. Clarke Sr., Union Grove Baptist Church, Levi Rozier, MTH, Sr. Pastor, Harvest Builders Worship Center, Rutha Jackson, President, Houston County Branch, NAACP, Grace Temple International Worship Center, Pastor Mack McCullough, Word In Season Ministries, Pastor Dale L. Smith, Mt. Sinai Fellowship Church, K. King, King Management Consultants and Kevin Hasty, Lifeway Christian Bookstore.
Read the entire letter at: www.macon.com/opinion/readers-opinion/article90382677.html
Written by Charles E. Richardson
Photo: Dallas Police Interfaith Memorial Service (dfw.cbslocal.com)