VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 9/30/20)—On Sept. 16, American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) convened on its online ministrElife platform a group of American Baptists from across the United States and Puerto Rico for its first meeting to be known as “The Justice Dialogues.”
The Justice Dialogues seeks to provide conversation, allyship, spiritual support and an exchange of ideas, perspectives and resources among diverse nationwide participants during this difficult age of racial unrest and its intersecting challenges, in addition to COVID-19, political polarization and natural disasters. Participants included activists, pastors, writers, educators and networkers.
“Twenty-twenty has truly turned out to be the year when we have clear vision on the complexity and magnitude of the challenges we are facing in our world,” said ABHMS Executive Director Dr. Jeffrey Haggray. “If ever there was a time we all need to be aware of the need for allies in justice, the time is now.”
After a brief introduction to respectful communication guidelines, participants were divided into online breakout groups to discuss the following questions: “In so many ways, 2020 is a year like no other. What challenges and opportunities are you seeing and what actions are you taking?” and “We know you are here because of your commitment to justice issues. How can we collectively make the most of our time together?”
In one breakout group, Amelia Chua, a documentarian who made a film about the Japanese-American internment during World War II, discussed the increased rate of violence against Asians perceived to be Chinese.
“They are told,” she said, “‘You dirty Chinese, go back to where you belong. You bring the sickness [COVID-19] with you.’”
She noted that the situation can be particularly frightening for recent immigrants from Burma, who are fleeing an oppressive government.
“They are in shock,” she said. “They came to the United States believing in a land of justice, liberty and equality for all. And they are being attacked for reasons they can hardly comprehend.”
In the same breakout group, Bill Gaventa, an advocate for individuals with disabilities, expressed that he was grateful for The Justice Dialogues providing an opportunity for him to listen to others’ perspectives.
“I look for ways that I can learn and that I can contribute without being seen as the patronizing white guy,” he said.
After the breakout session, the entire group reconvened for additional conversation about anything that had a significant impact, challenged their existing knowledge or confirmed what they already knew.
Said participant Andre Towner, coordinator for Engaging Communities at the DC Baptist Convention: “It’s refreshing to be with a collection of like-minded folk. It reminds me of how the work I’m involved in connects me to the larger picture.”
American Baptist Home Mission Societies partners with American Baptists to promote Christian faith, cultivate Christ-centered leaders and disciples, and bring healing and transformation to communities across the United States and Puerto Rico.
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.