Washington (BWA)--The Baptist World Alliance is encouraging its member bodies around the globe to observe International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21.
According to the website of the United Nations, March 21 is observed as such because, "on that day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid 'pass laws.'"
The first International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was observed in 1966 as a challenge to increase the fight against racism in all parts of the world.
The BWA publically condemned the systemic racism found in South African apartheid. In 1985, the 15th Baptist World Congress held in Los Angeles, California, in the United States, resolved that "we believe that it is our duty in the name of God to denounce this system [apartheid] and all who practice or support it."
Furthermore, a resolution from the General Council in 1986 stated that the BWA "expresses its solidarity with the leaders and others in that country who are struggling for a just social order through a multi-racial government based on majority rule, especially with those who are suffering in that struggle."
While the BWA rejoices that apartheid, after decades of discrimination, was abolished in 1993, the BWA continues to advocate for the elimination of all forms of racism occurring in the world today. The BWA Atlanta Covenant arose out of the International Baptist Summit against Racism and Ethnic Conflict held in 1999. This comprehensive statement on the BWA stance against racism and ethnocentrism is based on the conviction that commitment to racial justice is "an integral part of proclaiming Good News in Jesus Christ."
The BWA observance of a Decade to Promote Racial Justice, starting in 2001, provided Baptists an opportunity for a coordinated effort to further the mission to help eradicate racism and ethnic conflict. During the period, BWA member bodies supported efforts to end racism in their own contexts.
Constant vigilance is required if the BWA commitment to work for the elimination of racism is to be an ever-present commitment. To this end, we commend the March 21 observance.