World Council of Churches rejects violence, racial discrimination

The World Council of Churches (WCC) has rejected “the brutality of both violence and racial injustice” in relation to the recent killing of an African-American and subsequent unrest rocking the United States.

Jun 01, 2020

By David Adams
The World Council of Churches (WCC) has rejected “the brutality of both violence and racial injustice” in relation to the recent killing of an African-American and subsequent unrest rocking the United States.

“As part of our Christian understanding and our witness in the world, we reject the brutality of both violence and racial injustice. We therefore express our revulsion at the killing of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis, and call for full accountability for those responsible for his death,” the council said in a statement on May 30.

Maintaining that “violence will never be ended by more violence,” the statement urged “those now expressing their anger in violent protest to end the violence, but to strengthen peaceful demands for accountability and reform until justice is done.”

Floyd died on May 25 in Powderhorn, a neighborhood south of downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. While Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down on a city street during an arrest, Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, kept his knee on the right side of Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.

Two minutes and 53 seconds of which occurred after Floyd became unresponsive, according to the criminal complaint filed against Chauvin. Officers Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng, and Thomas K. Lane participated in Floyd’s arrest, with Kueng holding Floyd’s back, Lane holding his legs, and Thao looking on as he stood nearby.

The incident was recorded on the smartphones of several bystanders and later circulated on social media. The arrest was reportedly made after Floyd allegedly attempted to use a US$20 bill in a deli, which an employee suspected was counterfeit. Police stated that Floyd “physically resisted” after being ordered to exit his vehicle before the video was filmed.

The criminal complaint stated Floyd “did not voluntarily get in the car and struggled with the officers, intentionally falling down, saying he was not going in the car, and refusing to stand still” based on body camera footage captured by Kueng and Lane. Video recording by a witness, showing the arrested Floyd repeating “Please”, “I can’t breathe”, and “Don’t kill me”, was widely circulated on social media platforms and broadcast by the media. All four officers were fired the next day.

After Floyd’s death, demonstrations and protests in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul area were initially peaceful on May 26, but later that day became violent as windows were smashed at a police precinct. Some demonstrators skirmished with police, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets. Additional protests developed in more than 100 cities throughout the United States and internationally.

Floyd’s death has been compared to the 2014 death of Eric Garner. Garner, also an unarmed black man, repeated “I can’t breathe” eleven times after being placed in a chokehold by a New York police officer during an arrest in Staten Island.

The WCC said racism “that continues to infect our societies” was evident in the manner in which Floyd and so many other people of color have died.

“This must stop. There must be a conversion (metanoia), reflection, repentance and rejection of all forms of racism and racial discrimination, and a true and genuine acknowledgement of the equal God-given dignity and worth of every human being, regardless of color or ethnicity,” said the statement signed among others by WCC central committee Moderator Agnes Abuom, vice moderators Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima and Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, and acting general secretary Reverend Ioan Sauca.

“Superficial measures will no longer suffice. In the case of Mr Floyd’s killing, a crime has clearly been committed. Criminal prosecution must surely follow, as well as fundamental reforms in law enforcement. More importantly, society itself must change, to confront and rid itself of these hateful and deadly prejudices.”

The church body said the “pray for Mr Floyd’s family and loved ones, that they might be comforted in their bereavement, and see their loss become the catalyst for positive change.”--Matters India

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