The FBI released a warning last week about a potential surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans amid the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Michelle Ami Reyes was not surprised.
Reyes told Religion News Service that she knows people from her church in Austin, Texas, who have been spit on. She also knows people who have been chased down the street to shouts of “coronavirus.”
“A lot of what ministry on the ground lately has looked like is caring for people who are experiencing racism and the grief and the pain and the trauma that comes from that,” said Reyes, who planted Hope Community Church in Austin with her husband.
Reyes, who is Indian American, said she’s experienced that kind of racism herself.
Jeff M. Liou has experienced it, too.
Liou, national director of theological formation for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, said racist graffiti recently was painted near the church he attends.
“We know it’s affecting the people that we care about, and it’s affecting us directly,” Liou said.
“Many of us have been speaking out against this kind of stuff for a long time and have felt the need to call our leaders to account and invite them to join us. The way things are going right now just reached a breaking point for some of us.”
That’s why Reyes, Liou and other Asian American Christian leaders recently published the “Statement on Anti-Asian Racism in the Time of COVID-19.”
The statement already had gathered about 6,800 signatures online as of Thursday (April 2) morning.
Raymond Chang, a campus minister at Wheaton College outside Chicago, said he began messaging with Liou and Pastor Gabriel J. Catanus late last week, sharing instances of anti-Asian racism they’d seen and experienced in recent weeks.
After the campus minister added Reyes and others to his group chat with Catanus and Liou, it blew up, Chang said. In a matter of days, they had a statement, something Chang suggested they write because, he said, “the church has been silent on this.”
“As Christians, we felt like it was kind of like our duty to stand in the gap for other people and to intercede and to advocate as Christ advocated for us,” he said.
They also had launched the Asian American Christian Collaborative, which organizers hope will be a home for Asian American Christians and continue to equip the church long after the statement makes its impact.
“There hasn’t been a home for a biblically informed and grounded space for Asian American Christians,” Chang said. “It’s been something that’s on my heart for a couple of years, and so this just seemed to be a galvanizing point for something like that to take shape.”
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Source: Religion News Service