by Dennis Smith, World Mission | Special to Presbyterian News Service
“Racism … is an essential part of economic injustice and hierarchical visions that deny that all human beings were created in the image and likeness of God.”
With this powerful statement, the Alliance of Presbyterian and Reformed Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean (AIPRAL) stands against racism and white supremacy in the United States and in solidarity with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). More on the statement is here.
The AIPRAL declaration continues: “As churches in the Reformed tradition we are called to learn from the experience and vision of our sisters and brothers in South Africa expressed in the Confession of Belhar that our churches be witness of a humanity reconciled by the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ …
“God listens, pained, to the voice of his son who cannot breathe. God listens, pained, to the voice of his daughters and sons who are oppressed by hate and violence.”
AIPRAL is a regional body of 22 Presbyterian and Reformed churches related to the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC). AIPRAL President Rev. Agnaldo Pereira Gomes affirms that: “AIPRAL’s mission is inspired in inclusion, equality, solidarity and love, the values of God’s reign, as we seek to build a culture of peace. In our region, too, the excluded cry out, ‘I can’t breathe.’”
Rev. Dr. Darío Barolín, AIPRAL Executive Secretary, stated: “AIPRAL doesn’t usually comment publicly on events beyond our borders, but it this case we felt compelled to express our solidarity and prayerful accompaniment to our brothers and sisters in the U.S., in part because systemic racism and the need to uproot white supremacy are also present in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“The ways these problems manifest themselves in our region may vary, but the Afro-descendant, Indigenous and migrant populations must deal with the horror of these structural sins every day. Thus, in this declaration, we are also addressing our own member churches. That is why we cite the Belhar Confession, concretely situated in the historical reality of a church that was courageous enough to name the sins of racism and white supremacy.
“At the same time, we have enough regular contact with Hispanic brothers and sisters in the U.S. to know that they too must deal with the impact of racism every day. From our experience, we know that sometimes we are tempted to look the other way when we encounter racist behaviors against our Afro-American sisters and brothers. We have learned that together we face the same oppressive structures.”
In response to the AIPRAL statement, Sara Lisherness, interim director of Presbyterian World Mission, noted: “We are at a crossroads in the course of history. We can no longer ignore the oppression of people of color, particularly our black siblings. We must work together to speak up, to advocate, and bear witness for justice, equity and peace.
“It has been said, ‘The path is made by walking.’ We are humbled and grateful for AIPRAL’s support, prayers and solidarity as we commit to dismantle racism in our own denomination and in our society.”
Here is the statement:
“Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground” Genesis 4:10.
The Alliance of Presbyterian and Reformed Churches of Latin America (AIPRAL) expresses its pain and anger for the murder of George Floyd. This is not an isolated act but a sin that lies in the very structure of our societies, and the time has come to eradicate racism from among us once and for all.
We make as our own the declaration of the World Communion of Reformed Churches and we in Latin America and the Caribbean want to give to our sisters and brothers in the United States our embrace full of affection, prayer and comfort, and the strength through solidarity to transform this injustice.
Racism is not absent in our regions, but is manifested just as brutally against our brothers and sisters who are Afro-descended, indigenous and migrants. Racism, in addition, is not an isolated factor of sin, but is tangled up and is an essential part of economic injustice and hierarchical visions that deny that all human beings were created in the image and likeness of God. (Genesis 1:26-28)
As churches in the Reformed tradition we are called to learn from the experience and vision of our sisters and brothers in South Africa expressed in the Confession of Belhar that our churches be witness of a humanity reconciled by the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As followers of Jesus of Nazareth we condemn all forms of racism and all speech that uses his Gospel of reconciliation to justify it.
As followers of Jesus of Nazareth we walk in solidarity with those who suffer and we stand by actions that lead to an authentic and just reconciliation.
God listens, pained, to the voice of the murdered Abel. God listens, pained, to the voice of his son who cannot breathe. God listens, pained, to the voice of his daughters and his sons who are oppressed by hate and violence.
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. Amen.” 2 Corinthians 13:14.
Rev. Agnaldo Pereira Gomes, President, and Rev. Darío Barolin, Executive Secretary
Dennis Smith is World Mission’s regional liaison for South America.