As racial tensions continue across the United States, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore announced a statewide task force to combat racism and promote unity within local communities.
“The dreadful spectacle of violence and racism displayed in Charlottesville by various white supremacist groups is a shocking reminder of how much work still needs to be done to eradicate the sin of racism in our country, our state, and local communities,” stated Archbishop Lori in a Sept. 27 press release. “This effort will require the courage to take an honest look at our past, the humility to repent of the ways we have actively caused pain or turned a deaf ear to those who suffer from the evil of racism, and a firm faith in the power of God’s love as we begin the path of reconciliation,” Lori continued.
Last month, a planned “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., to protest the city’s removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee drew white supremacists including neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members. A counter-protest, including a diverse coalition of religious leaders and members of the Antifa and Black Lives Matter movements, was formed. On Aug. 12, a man drove a car into the counter-protest, injuring 19 and killing one. The Charlottesville violence came after months of heightened racial tensions, with several fatal shootings of black men by police officers, as well as riots across the country.
The new task force is co-chaired by Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Denis Madden of Baltimore and Auxiliary Bishop Roy Campbell of Washington. It includes Maryland legislators, historians, and scholars, as well as leaders from local African-American and Latino communities. The group held its first meeting on Monday.
The task force is similar to other Church initiatives launched recently to address racism. Last year, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops created the Task Force on Peace and Unity in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death and the ensuing riots in Maryland. Last month, the bishops’ conference announced an Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism for the specific purpose of listening to “the needs of individuals who have suffered under the sin of racism,” and to “find solutions to this epidemic of hate that has plagued our nation for far too long,” according to Bishop George Murry of Ohio, who serves as chairman.
While these efforts are a beginning, Lori believes that there is still a long road ahead in terms of healing racial tensions and creating peaceful communities within the country. “We know that we are far from where we need to be in fostering a truly loving, diverse community where all are welcomed and embraced, regardless of the color of their skin, the language they speak, or their country of origin,” the archbishop said.
“We ask for the prayers of Maryland’s Catholic community and all people of goodwill as we turn to this work with renewed zeal and urgency. May St. Peter Claver inspire and bless our coming together as we journey ever closer toward building the kingdom of God.”