By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
The Chairmen of three boards of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have denounced the incidents of racism and xenophobia against Americans of Asian and Pacific Island heritage amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The Chairman of the USCCB’s Committee for Cultural Diversity in the Church, Archbishop Nelson J. Perez of Philadelphia, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Island Affairs, Bishop Oscar A. Solis of Salt Lake City, and the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee against Racism, Bishop Shelton J. Fabre jointly released a statement on 5 May.
“While we have been heartened by the countless acts of charity and bravery that have been modeled by many, we are also alarmed to note the increase in reported incidents of bullying and verbal and physical assaults, particularly against Americans of Asian and Pacific Island heritage,” the statement reads.
Harassment and discrimination
The Bishops point out that long before state and local ordinances forced the economic sector to slow down, businesses owned and operated by Asian Americans were already experiencing a sharp decline in patronage. In addition, they note that “a high percentage of Asian Americans work in the health care sector” risking their own health saving lives. Some of them have experienced rejection and requests to be “treated by someone else.”
The Bishops also express their closeness to “all those who have been victims of these vile displays of racism and xenophobia.” These acts serve as reminders that “racial profiling and discrimination continue to negatively impact the lives of certain populations, adding to the pain and suffering already caused by the pandemic.”
The Bishops’ appeal
Referring to these instances of harassment and discrimination as “unacceptable,” the Bishops call for “a firm rejection of racial categorizations or presumptions, racially-based verbal assaults and slurs” and “an end to all forms of violence.” These are “attacks against human life and dignity and contrary to gospel values,” the statement reads.
Rather, it continues, “the reality of the times and all the suffering caused by the pandemic call for a stronger resolve towards unity, demonstrated through acts of solidarity, kindness and love towards one another.”
The Bishops urge “Catholics, fellow Christians and all people of good will” to help stop all racially motivated discriminatory actions and attitudes. They also called on elected officials, public figures and public institutions to “do all that they can to promote and maintain peace” in communities.
They ended their statement saying, “We encourage all individuals, families and congregations to assist in promoting a greater appreciation and understanding of the authentic human values and cultural contributions brought by each racial heritage in our country.”