Our churches are burning. In the two weeks since the massacre at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, fires at predominantly African-American churches are again terrorizing communities. Now is the time for the United States of America to confront this violence visited on houses of worship and the African-American community, directly and resolutely.
During the 1990s, CWS provided aid and comfort during a series of church arson attacks in the South. The fact that in 2015, with an African-American serving as president, when a black church burns our first thought immediately turns to arson is a haunting reminder that we still have far to go in achieving widespread tolerance and understanding.
The tragedy at Mother Emanuel is one more symptom of our larger national illness reflected in how we implicitly condone systematic inequality and commemorate heritage at the expense of disenfranchising African-Americans. The alleged hate-fueled arsons of houses of worship should be a turning point in the discussion about how we can collectively advance beyond challenges of race and diversity. We believe, as people of faith, we must foster this important discourse as media attention focuses on the spectacle while ignoring the underlying issues of racial disparity.
Church World Service proudly and prophetically stands arm-in-arm with our historically black member communions and denominations — now and always.
The Rev. Dr. Earl Trent is Chair of the CWS Board of Directors.