The images of violence, rioting and looting across our country these past days have gripped our nation with fear and anger. These images will be etched into our memories like the riots that erupted after the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968. Now, following of the brutal death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer, we see the aftermath of riots and violence, the burned out homes and businesses belonging to citizens of every race and color.
It is beyond our comprehension how the cries of George Floyd for his very life could go unheeded by men who took an oath to protect the lives of all the citizens in their community. But, will we remember George Floyd’s cries or will we only remember the sounds of shattered glass and the shouts of a few calling for the deaths of police and the destruction of property?
It will not be easy to remember the lives and deaths of George Floyd, Ahmuad Arbery and Breonna Taylor in the aftermath of the destruction of these past days. Who among us remembers the voices of forgiveness from the relatives of the nine members of Emmanuel AME Church gunned down by a white man in 2015? Will we forget the voices of members of the DC Black Student Alliance Council who sent a letter to the chief of the Metropolitan Police Department and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser requesting actions to protect students of color in the District of Columbia?
It is precisely these voices that we must remember if we are ever to achieve justice and equality for every person in our nation. The lives of George Floyd, Ahmuad Arbery and Breonna Taylor must become the bonds that enable us to build a nation in which every citizen has the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” That means a nation in which a young black man will not fear for his life when he walks down any street in his own country. A nation where police departments make racial sensitivity and cultural diversity hallmarks of their training. A nation where the dignity of every human being is valued by everyone.
We cannot let the cries for justice and equality be drowned out once again by the cacophony of calls for destruction and vengeance. Let not the images of violence and destruction blind us to the vision that we are one nation and one people bound together by our common destiny as children of God.
Let us earnestly pray:
Father, we pray for peace on our streets and in our homes. We plead for an end to the violence which threatens to destroy our vision of a better tomorrow for everyone.
We pray for parents of color who each morning bless their sons and daughters as they leave for school or work and worry about their safe return at night. We pray for the children of people of color who have the same worries for their parents.
We pray for the vast majority of our law enforcement members who work every day to protect the lives and safety of every citizen.
We ask you Lord, to change the hearts of those who fan the flames of racism and prejudice and those who see violence and rioting as the only means to achieve the justice that each person deserves.
May we work in solidarity for the day when the dignity of each person is valued and cherished.
Let fear not chain us. Let violence not overwhelm us. Help us all to remember that the works of justice ahead are too important to be delayed or denied.
We make this prayer in union with your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen
— Rev. Jude DeAngelo, O.F.M. Conv., University Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry