“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matthew 37-39)
Dear Siblings in Christ,
We, the Eastern Synod, acknowledge and denounce the continued and increasing hateful, racist and targeted acts against the Asian-Canadian and Pacific Islander (ACPI) community. Specifically and especially, we denounce those actions that are perpetuated due to poisonous misinformation and anti-Asian rhetoric in relation to the COVID-19 virus, and its origin in China. Importantly, it is a matter of justice.
One of our Chinese sisters shares her personal experience:
“Our family immigrated to Canada in 1987. No matter how long, racial prejudice establishes that we do not belong here, we are only tolerated. Comments on aspects of Chinese culture span from Cantonese sounds like funny noises; my Chinese books are printed backwards; my people read backwards; my cultural foods are strange and weird; and my name is too hard for Canadians to bother learning. Yet, when the community wishes to celebrate multiculturalism, let’s get the Chinese girl to come play her horizontal harp, sing in her funny melodies, and dance in those exotic costumes. ‘Go back to where you come from’ has been yelled at me. Internally, we work to be the model minority.
I have documentation that says I’m Canadian. Yet I am asked where I come from repeatedly until the satisfactory answer of ‘China’ lands squarely in the conversation. We receive unfriendly looks cast in our directions when on the subway, or while in public spaces, we are scrutinized because of our skin colour. Compare the reactions to an Asian coughing with a mask and a white person refusing to wear one.
At the beginning of the global pandemic, we prepared our children for comments against Asians about the cause of COVID-19. We prepared them for people being against them because of how they look. Despite telling them to be proud and never have to compromise their sense of identity of being Asian, the Atlanta shooting led us to warn our 15-year-old daughter to be wary of white people while in school and in public because Asians have become a target for racial violence, especially Asian women. The pain is real when we cannot tell the next generation that the world is safer than before, or that they will be seen beyond their skin colour.”
In times of strain, when society looks for a scapegoat, Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour become acceptable targets. It is as if stress and anxieties draw out the need for establishing supremacy because we return to the concept of survival of the fittest. ‘Othering’ people and communities who are different ends up being a survival tactic that is both selfish and the cause of societal breakdown.
In Canada, a summary of survey findings funded in part by the Canadian government, tallied 1,150 reported incidents of anti-Asian racism across Canada since the beginning of the pandemic. Statistics Canada reported back in July that hate crimes against Asian-Canadians have been on the rise in the same time frame. Vancouver Police report that anti-Asian hate crimes went up 717% from 2019 to 2020. Another incident in Toronto’s Cabbagetown community on March 25, 2021 emphasizes the escalating pattern of racist-fueled hatred and violence present in Canada.
We, as the Racial Justice Advisory Committee, continue to work alongside Eastern Synod congregations and communities to learn, to challenge, and to be transformed. As Christians, as people, we stand against racial discrimination and demand meaningful change. Drawing the circle wide to counter the legacy and impact of white privilege, sharing positions of power, and honouring the diversity of voices and experiences is the only way forward. There is a role for all in this work. At the end of this statement, there are a few ways we can be allies to those experiencing racism, and build a more just society for all.
We encourage you to reach out to those you know who might be feeling particularly vulnerable during these difficult times. Check in and take time to create a safe space to share their fears and anxieties, listen to their narratives and realities, let them know you are thinking of them. Make a promise that you are praying for a better world, and that you are prepared to work for it too.
Let us pray for courage and perseverance as we work together to dismantle the scourge of racism against all People of Colour and all forms of discrimination and prejudice.
In solidarity with our Siblings of Asian and Pacific Island descent.
Your Racial Justice Advisory Committee members:
Rev. Joanna Miller, Chair
Rev. Dag Demandt
Rev. Jennifer Hoover
Deacon Scott Knarr
Rev. Chung Yan (JoAnne) Lam
Rev. Philip Mathai
Dr. Joy Philip (Assoc. Professor – MLU)
Rev. Rick Pryce
Rev. Jonathan Schmidt
Rev. Chun Zhang
Rev. Michael Pryse, Bishop, Eastern Synod of the ELCIC
Rev. Christie Morrow-Wolfe, Assistant to the Bishop
HOW TO BE AN ALLY
- Educate ourselves and others on the realities and histories of marginalized people;
- Speak up even when it is scary. The restoration of human dignity, respect and equal access to resources is intrinsic to the acknowledgement of our common humanity;
- Being an ally is a way of being and doing. This means self-reflection as a way of life.
- It is not the work of Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour to eradicate racism because the oppressed cannot free themselves; instead, those with privilege must take on the responsibility of dismantling racism and racist systems.
 Stop AAPI Hate. “Stop AAPI Hate National Report.” Stop AAPI Hate, 2021, https://secureservercdn.net/126.96.36.199/a1w.90d.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/210312-Stop-AAPI-Hate-National-Report-.pdf. Accessed March 2021.
 Karamali, Kamil. “Anti-Asian racism in Canada more “frequent” as report tallies hundreds of attacks during pandemic.” Global News, 23 March 2021, https://globalnews.ca/news/7715260/anti-asian-racism-report-pandemic/. Accessed March 2021.
 Zussman, Richard. “Horgan “deeply” troubled by 717% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in Vancouver.” Global News, 18 February 2021, https://globalnews.ca/news/7647135/horgan-bc-presser-feb-18/. Accessed March 2021.