In a Long, Hot Summer of Racial Tension and Violence, Americans Turn to Prayer

Church and Civic Leaders Proffer Prayer in Wake of Shooting Deaths

Peter Jesserer Smith

Document Publication: National Catholic Register

Publication Date: July 15, 2016

Below are excerpts.  Read the entire article at the National Catholic Register

DALLAS — Across the nation, civil and religious leaders have together taken up the best tool they have left to cut a path for Americans through the summer’s rising thickets of racial hatred: prayer, the common language of peace.

Three blood-filled days, July 5-7, have left Americans reeling from a newfound realization that its racial wounds run deep, prompting memories of the deadly race riots of the 1960s.

But amid powerful temptations to hatred from antagonists on both sides of the racial divide, prayer has proven to be the mainstay of social peace and the driving hope of concord between white and black and black and blue.

The video-captured killings of two black men, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minn., during their respective encounters with police on July 5 and 6, renewed the controversial “Black Lives Matter” marches coast-to-coast.


Alveda King
Elsewhere throughout the country, black pastors have invited police to come and join hands with their congregations to pray together, or have gone to police stations to show spiritual solidarity that crosses racial boundaries.
Father Joshua Johnson, parochial vicar at St. Aloysius Catholic Church in Baton Rouge, La., is biracial. He said many people in the city are afraid due to all of the recent racial tensions.
He told the Register that Catholics need to pray the Rosary, joining Mary in meditating upon our Savior, Jesus Christ.
“Our Lady said, if you want peace, pray the Rosary,” Father Johnson said.
The foundations of the civil-rights movement were built by “men and women of God” who laid down their lives as “prophets of love,” Alveda King, pastoral associate and director of African-American outreach at Priests for Life, told the Register. Her famous uncle, Martin Luther King Jr., was himself a minister who was slain in 1968 in the course of the nonviolent protest movement he led. She noted that in Ferguson, Mo., during the unrest following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson nearly two years ago, the presence of ministers and the prayer tent helped protesters turn back from the temptation to escalate violence.
“The more they prayed, the more violent protests subsided,” she said.
While much has improved in the 50 years since the nation’s legal apparatus of racism was dismantled in the Civil Rights Act, King said the nation still has not overcome its systemic problems of race, because legislation does not heal the human heart.
“We need prayer to bring about the conversion of heart needed for America to confront racism,” King said, particularly in its institutions. She said this spiritual conversion can make possible the interracial solidarity black Americans have called for to help them address systemic problems: broken families, broken education systems, staggering abortion rates, broken economic opportunities and the need to have confidence in the professionalism of police.
“My uncle Martin Luther King once said: ‘When we truly believe in the sacredness of human personality, we won’t exploit people, we won’t trample over people with the iron feet of oppression, we won’t kill anybody,’” she added.
“We need to come together and pray together, and as we pray together and worship God together, and repent together, then we’ll be able to convert together.”
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