John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Amos 5:24, “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
Lent is a season of self-examination, confession, and a walk with Jesus through the wilderness, alienation, betrayal, death, and ultimately resurrection. As we journey with Jesus through Lent, we see that we are currently in a period of darkness because there has been a precipitous rise in the hatred and violence against the Asian American community in this country.
The Asian and Asian American Bishops of the United Methodist Church, the New Federation of Asian American United Methodists, the Asian American Language Ministry Plan, along with other Asian American leaders and academics of the United Methodist Church, strongly condemn the surge in xenophobic violence against Asian Americans and especially violence against the Asian American elderly. More than 122 incidents of anti-Asian American hate crimes have been committed in 16 of the country’s most populous cities since 2020, an increase of almost 150% over the previous year. According to Stop AAPI Hate, 2,800 incidents of racism and discrimination targeting Asian Americans have occurred since March 2020. Russell Jeung, the chair of the Asian-American Studies Department at San Francisco State University and one of the leaders of “ Stop AAPI Hate ”, said that, according to the organization’s data, people 60 and older were disproportionately targeted with physical violence, as were women. In New York City, violence against Asian Americans has risen by 1,900% in 2020.
These acts of hate are neither sporadic nor haphazard. They reflect a larger systemic trend of anti-Asian American animosity brought on during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been exacerbated by documented xenophobic policies and racist rhetoric disseminated by the previous Administration. Politically charged racist rhetoric has fomented the hate against Asian Americans. The people who have perpetrated these acts of violence have used racist language including phrases like Wuhan Virus, Kung Flu, China Virus, China Plague. This dangerous scapegoating is fabricated and must stop.
We strongly condemn the rising physical violence against Asian Americans across this country. In California, attacks against Asian Americans rose by 115%. In the San Francisco Bay Area, racist and hate-motivated violence has left one person dead and others badly injured. On January 5th, a 52-year-old Asian American woman was shot in the head with a flare gun in Oakland’s Chinatown. On February 3rd, a 64-year-old grandmother in San Jose, California was assaulted and robbed of cash that she had just withdrawn for Lunar New Year gifts. On that same day in Manhattan, Noel Quintana, 61, was riding the subway when his assaulter slashed his face. On February 4th a 91-year-old man in Oakland, California was inexplicably shoved to the ground by a man who was walking behind him. On February 26th a 36-year-old Asian-American man was stabbed while walking outside the federal courthouse in Chinatown, New York City. On March 14th a Burmese man and his two children were slashed by a knife-wielding attacker while shopping in Midland, Texas. The accused man said he did it because he thought they were “Chinese and infecting people with the coronavirus”. On January 26th, 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee was going for a morning walk in his San Francisco neighborhood, when a man running at him full speed smashed into his frail body, throwing him to the pavement. Mr. Ratanapakdee died of his injuries two days later. There have been more than two dozen recent assaults and robberies on the Asian American elderly in the San Francisco Bay Area and many many more have gone unreported. These attacks must stop.
We commend President Biden who, on January 26, 2021, signed a memorandum pledging to combat anti-Asian and Pacific Islander discrimination, and the Presidential memorandum states, “During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, inflammatory and xenophobic rhetoric has put Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) persons, families, communities, and businesses at risk.” While we wholeheartedly affirm this memorandum as a step forward it must now be followed up by immediate action both by the State and the Church.
We ask that the church live up to its commitments stated in the 2016 United Methodist Book of Resolution #3422 “ Speaking Out for Compassion: Transforming the Context of Hate in The United States ”. This is an urgent matter of justice.
We ask that all United Methodists read again and live out our own Charter for Racial Justice which states that all persons are of equal value in the sight of God and that racism is a rejection of the teachings of Jesus Christ. The Charter also states that our struggle for justice must be based on new attitudes, new understandings, and new relationships and must be reflected in the laws, policies, structures, and practices of both church and state.
We implore all United Methodists to end their complicity with hate and speak out when jokes, disparagements, and stereotypes based on difference. These differences fuel fear and rationalize acts of violence. We further call on all United Methodists to implement, biblically-based, multigenerational resources that address the systemic nature of hate crimes.
Finally, we call on the Council of Bishops to create opportunities to listen to and hear from Asian Americans and other excluded groups about the current reality and impact of the violence and hatred; and partner with these groups to act for justice so that the light of Jesus can shine in the darkness and the darkness of systematic racism will be conquered.
As we continue our journey through this Lenten Season and move from darkness to light, we are reminded that these acts of violence against Asian Americans have their origins in the darkness. Shifting this hatred into the light of God will require that all of us condemn acts of racist hatred and move toward love, tolerance, and justice; all of which Jesus Christ modeled in his life, death and resurrection.
We the undersigned support and endorse this statement:
Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar, New England Annual Conference
Bishop Grant Hagiya, California Pacific Annual Conference
Bishop Robert Hoshibata, Desert Southwest Annual Conference
Bishop Rodolfo A. Juan, Davao Episcopal Area
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, Wisconsin Annual Conference
Bishop Jeremiah Park, Susquehanna Annual Conference
Bishop Roy Sano, Retired
Rev. Bener Baysa Agtarap, E.D., Community Engage. & Church Plant./Path 1, GBOD
Rev. Dr. Liberato Bautista, Asst. General Sec. – UN and International Affairs, GBCS
Rev. Dr. Judy Chung, Executive Director, Missionary Service, GBGM
Rev. Doris Kung Chi-Pui Dalton, Dir., Lead. Dev./Intercultural Competency, NY Conference
Rev. Neal Christie, Social Justice Consultant with AALM, NFAAUM, UMC
Roland Fernandes, General Secretary, General Board of Global Ministries
Aimee H. Hong, Special E.D. of Education and Engagement, GBOD
Kwangki David Kim, Dir., Korean, Asian & Pacific Islander Ministries. GBOD
Rev. Bich Thy “Betty” Nguyen, Multicult./Advoc. Ministries Devel., Mtn. Sky Conference
Rev. Mighty Rasing, Director, Central Conference Relations, GBOD
Sung-ok Lee, Assist. Gen. Sec., Christian Social Action, UM Women
Dr. Jung Choi, Sr. Dir. Wesleyan Form. Initiatives, Duke Divinity School
Dr. Courtney Goto, Assoc. Prof. of Religious Ed., Boston School of Theology
Dr. Dong Hyeon Jeong, Asst. Professor, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary
Dr. Arun W. Jones, Associate Professor, Candler School of Theology
Dr. Helen Jin Kim, Asst. Professor, Candler School of Theology
Rev. Dr. Sangwoo Kim, Sr. Dir. Methodist House of Studies, Duke Divinity School
Rev. Dr. Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan, President, Claremont School of Theology
Rev. Dr. Boyung Lee, Sr. VP Acad. Affairs/Dean of Faculty, Iliff School of Theology
Dr. K. Samuel Lee, Professor, Claremont School of Theology
Dr. Kirsten S. Oh, Professor, Azusa Pacific University
Dr. G. Sujin Pak, Dean, Boston University School of Theology
Dr. Andrew S. Park, Professor, United Theological Seminary
Dr. Daniel D. Shin, Assoc. Prof. Theo. World Christianity, Drew Theo. School
Dr. Mai-Anh Le Tran, VP Academic Affairs & Academic Dean, Garrett-Evangelical
Rev. Hak-Soon Paul Chang, Executive Director, Korean Ministry Plan
Rev. Sonxay Chathasone, Chair, Lao/Thai National UMC Caucus
Rev. William Chou, Chair, Formosan National UMC Caucus
Rev. Scort Christy, Pres., New Federation of Asian Amer. United Methodists
Rev. Edgar De Jesus, President, N at. Assoc. of Filipino Am. United Methodists
Rev. Vathanak Heang, Chair, Cambodian National Caucus of the UMC
Rev. Puong Ong Lau, Chair, National Chinese Caucus, UMC
Dr. Christina Lee, President, Cambodian UMC Women’s Network
Rev. Jae Duk Lew, President, Korean National Caucus of the UMC
Rev. Karen Yokota Love, Chair, National Japanese American UMC Caucus
Rev. Timothy Rathod, President, National Indian Caucus, UMC
Rev. Ayla Samson, President, Pakistani UMC Caucus
Monalisa Tuitahi, Executive Director, Pacific Islander National Caucus, UMC
Rev. Kelly Van, Chair, Vietnamese National Caucus, UMC
Rev. Nathan V. Vang, Chair, Hmong National Caucus, UMC
Rev. Tsuker Yang, Hmong National Caucus, DS Wisconsin Annual Conference
Rev. Zaki L. Zaki, President, Middle Eastern UMC Caucus
Rev. David Valera, Exec. Dir. of Connectional Ministries, PNW Conference
Rev. Derek Nakano, SeaTac Missional District Superintendent, PNW Conference
Rev. Carlo Rapanut, Conference Superintendent, Alaska Conference
Rev. Mark Galang, Puget Sound Missional District, PNW Conference
Rhondalei Gabuat, Exec. Assistant for the Episcopal Office, Greater Northwest Area
Rev. John Oda
Asian American Language Ministry Plan
Rev. Scort Christy
President of New Federation of Asian American United Methodists