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On August 28th, the new Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial will open in Washington, D.C. Our nation honors Dr. King for his organizing work in communities across the country to dismantle all forms of racism from our nation's institutions--including the Church. Dr. King is also honored for making the connection between racism, poverty and militarism and for his work in building a broad-based anti-racist, multi-cultural movement to create a "beloved community" that included the entire human family. He is recognized as the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
At times we might be tempted to think that the struggle Dr. King led for civil rights was marked by one success after another; that the narrow-minded bigots that opposed civil rights were always on the defensive and that victory was all but inevitable. But this was far from the truth. And as we reflect upon the darkness of our own times--the wars being waged at home and abroad against the poor and people of color--it is important to remind ourselves that on the journey to peace with justice, we will encounter many detours, wrong turns and dead ends. As Dr. King once said:
"I must confess, my friends, the road ahead will not always be smooth. There will be still rocky places of frustration and meandering points of bewilderment. There will be inevitable setbacks here and there. There will be those moments when the buoyancy of hope will be transformed into the fatigue of despair. Our dreams will sometimes be shattered and our ethereal hopes blasted. ... Difficult and painful as it is, we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future. ... When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."
Ten years ago in an audacious act of faith, Pax Christi USA committed itself to a 20-year initiative to transform ourselves into an anti-racist, multi-cultural Catholic movement for peace with justice. But now, with the assaults being waged against the most fundamental principles of our faith and the values of our nation from those on the far right, we might be tempted to put aside our work of transforming Pax Christi into an anti-racist, multi-cultural Catholic movement in order to concentrate on what many in our movement see as more "important" issues.
But our anti-racism work is not simply about the issue of racism. Our work is understanding how racism infects and sabotages our peacemaking efforts. Dismantling racism in Pax Christi is a priority because racism is a sinful disease that distorts our vision and analysis, weakens our Gospel integrity and authenticity and relegates us to the periphery of God's dream of an all-inclusive discipleship community working together to heal a broken world.
This work is difficult and at times it may seem that for every step forward, we take two steps backward. It is much easier to focus on the sinfulness that exists in the world around us than it is to confront the darkness within. It is often easier for us to look beyond our borders--to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Sudan--than to look at the institutional and systemic racism within our borders that perpetuates social injustice and inflicts violence on many of our sisters and brothers of color. It is often easier to claim "I am not prejudiced" than to work, pray, and befriend people outside our cultural, economic, linguistic, or racial community. The good news is that God "makes a way out of no way and transforms dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows." The road may be long but Dr. King and many other holy women and men have gone before us to show us the way.
The Pax Christi Anti-Racism Team
PRAY: Prayer for Dismantling Racism
Dear God, in our efforts to dismantle racism, we understand that we struggle not merely against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities--those institutions and systems that keep racism alive by perpetuating the lie that some members of the family are inferior and others superior.
Create in us a new mind and heart that will enable us to see brothers and sisters in the faces of those divided by racial categories.
Give us the grace and strength to rid ourselves of racial stereotypes that oppress some of us while providing entitlements to others.
Help us to create a Church and nation that embraces the hopes and fears of oppressed People of Color where we live, as well as those around the world.
Heal your family God, and make us one with you, in union with our brother Jesus, and empowered by your Holy Spirit. Amen.
* This prayer is available as a prayer card in the Pax Christi online store. Click here to view.
STUDY: Brothers and Sisters All
Brothers and Sisters All is a 20-year initiative to transform Pax Christi USA into an anti-racist, multicultural Catholic peace and justice movement. Pax Christi USA seeks to embrace this new identity and do all its work from an anti-racist perspective, in the conviction that personal and systemic racism continues to perpetrate deep spiritual and social brokenness and endangers creation.
Pax Christi USA is committed to establishing strong, honest, caring relationships--both personal and institutional--across racial lines in order that together, with the whole Body of Christ, we can transform structures and cultures of violence and domination. To accomplish this transformation, Pax Christi USA is committed to transforming its organizational structures, policies, practices, and forms of decision-making to include participation of, and accountability to, people of color.
Because racism inflicts violence on people of color; because violence anywhere is injustice everywhere; and because injustice is a sin against humanity and against the God who creates, redeems, and sanctifies us, racism is contrary to who we are called to be: brothers and sisters all.
As a sign of our long-term commitment to dismantle racism within our hearts, our structures and our culture, Pax Christi approved the following 20-year vision for its Brothers and Sisters All Anti-Racism Initiative...
Click here to read the vision statement and for information on the Pax Christi Anti-Racism Team, including how to schedule a workshop.
Catholic Social Teaching/Liberation Analysis and Anti- Racism, by MJ Iozzio, Ph.D.
1. LEARN HOW TO SEE SO AS TO RECOGNIZE INJUSTICE
Name the oppressions:
- Militarism: resource diverted to murder and destruction
- Sexism: refusal to acknowledge women's power
- Heterosexism: failure to move beyond narrow relational norms
- Ableism: denial or reduction of personhood to people with disabilities
- Ageism: disrespect and disposal of elders
- Poverty: concentration of wealth systemically dependent upon a permanent labor force
- Racism: systemic and institutionalized power over many for the benefit of few
How do you find the oppressions? Ask questions.
What is happening as a result of the exercise of each of these "isms"?
2. DETERMINE HOW TO JUDGE SO AS TO EXPOSE SIN
All "isms" are destructive--they reduce people deemed other to an instrumental means:
- To gain control over their resources--for economic, political, or personal gain
- To enslave--as a permanent work force
- To demean--as a preventive to self-love
- To reject--as a preventive to self-care
- To deny--as a preventive to self-determination
- To ridicule--as a preventive to personal empowerment
- To oppress--as a tool to perpetuate the burden
What sins do these "isms" commit?
What sins do these "isms" omit?
3. BRAINSTORM TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO ACT SO AS TO CORRECT AND REPAIR DAMAGE EXPERIENCED BY THE PEOPLE IMMEDIATELY AFFECTED
Once the oppression is named as sin, the lie is exposed, change must follow:
- Become an ally of those who are oppressed, especially People of Color--identify communities in your town, county, state, region, and nation
- Establish relationships with People of Color--become a friend
- Listen to the expressed needs of People of Color--the needs of people who have been and are oppressed are very different from the needs of those who are well-off
- Get involved with grassroots community efforts--where People of Color have organized, join in
- Stand with people who are oppressed wherever and whoever they may be
THEN, start over to look at the systemic causes and institutionalization of violence for the sake of some over the oppression of many.