By Lisa Zengarini
A gunman killed eight people and wounded one other before police arrested a young white man for the shootings, which occurred on March 17. The violence has reignited public debate in the country about other reported incidents of aggression against people of Asian descent, although the gunman has denied racial motives behind his actions.
In a statement published on Monday, Bishop Oscar A. Solis of Salt Lake City, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Island Affairs, condemned the culture of death, hatred and violence underlying these incidents and called for solidarity with the vulnerable.
“As bishops, we decry any kind of hatred and violence, particularly based on race, ethnicity, or sex”, the prelate said. He noted that this latest incident “has prompted national dialogue on addressing anti-Asian bias that has taken the form of numerous other acts of physical violence, verbal attacks and destruction of property against those of Asian descent over the last year that have left communities across the country traumatized”.
Echoing Atlanta Archbishop Gregory Hartmayer’s words, the US Bishops call for support and solidarity with all victims of violence and those who are vulnerable, stressing once again that “every human being is a brother or sister in Christ, created in the image and likeness of a loving God”.
“Particularly during this season of Lent, let us remember God’s love and mercy for each one of us and renew the call for conversion of heart, that we may be more united to God’s love and share it with all of our neighbors”, the statement adds.
In May 2020, in the midst of increased reports of incidents of racism and xenophobia against Americans of Asian and Pacific Island heritage, three bishop chairmen issued a statement expressing their “call for a stronger resolve towards unity, demonstrated through acts of solidarity, kindness and love toward one another, so that we can emerge from this crisis renewed and stronger as one American people; a people that places value in every human life, regardless of race, ethnic origin, gender or religious affiliation”.
American Asians number over 20 million people from various backgrounds, including Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Filipino, Vietnamese, and Korean, among others. All have experienced some form of discrimination, with notable instances going as far back as the Chinese Exclusion Act in the 19th century and the Japanese internment during World War Two. According to a recent survey, racial harassment and violence against people of Asian descent in the US have increased drastically since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.