Everybody wants to feel safe. No one wants to be afraid or to have their family, friends, or neighbors feel anxiety or fear in their neighborhood or their home. In theory, this is why we live together in community: to help and protect each other. And some would say this is why laws are passed and enforced, to help keep people safe who are “doing the right thing.”
And yet our cities in the U.S, and many other places around the country and the world, are not safe at all. On far too many streets and street corners, there is gun violence, police brutality and murder, racist and gender-related attacks and killings, school shootings, raids on and arrests of immigrants. Not only in the streets, but in our workplaces and homes too, there is more violence: abuse and/or oppression of children, women, elders, people living in poverty, transgender folks, undocumented persons…
George Floyd wasn’t safe in his community, nor was Ahmaud Arbery or Rayshard Brooks. Neither were Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Alton Sterling, Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin, and so many others… Breonna Taylor wasn’t safe in her home, nor was Atatiana Jefferson or Aiyana Jones, and so many others…. They couldn’t breathe. They weren’t allowed to live out their lives. There are so many, many other victims of racist violence and murder. It is important to know their names and their stories. Say their names (see saytheirnames.com) So many BIPOC men and women have been murdered, killed unjustly by the systemic racism that infects every aspect of life in the U.S. Demand justice! We need to demand equity now!
No human beings want to live under this stress and violence. None can grow and thrive and live out their dreams amid this reign of terror and fear. But also, most importantly, all this abuse, violence, and savagery is part of systemic racism in the U.S. It affects blacks, indigenous folks, and other people of color disproportionately, in vastly lopsided and excessive numbers. Equity demands that we turn these inequalities around, transform the toxic, traumatic, and barbarous environment surrounding so many of us, and not stop our work and organizing until all people in our country are safe in their neighborhoods, workplaces, and homes. We declare that we ALL must be able to live in safe, just, unbiased, and peaceful communities, not just those with white privilege.
God knows our need to feel safe and promises us safety in many places in scripture: “The beloved of the Lord rests in safety—the High God surrounds him all day long—the beloved rests between [God’s] shoulders.” (Deuteronomy 33:12) And speaking of our communities, the Lord declares, “You shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your households together, rejoicing in all the undertakings in which the Lord your God has blessed you.” (Deuteronomy 33:7)
God tells us also how one day we’ll be able to live without violence, anxiety and fear, together in safety and peace: “They shall live in safety in [the community], and shall build houses and plant vineyards. They shall live in safety, when I execute judgments upon all their neighbors who have treated them with contempt. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God.” (Ezekiel 28:26)
But often many of us want to ask, “So what is God waiting for?” And when is “one day” going to come? How can we work toward and hasten the day when all people will live in safety and not need to be afraid? And what can we do to end the racism and inequity that causes Blacks and other people of color to bear the brunt of the violence rampant throughout U.S. society and to be denied the protections routinely afforded white people?
In many neighborhoods and cities across the country, people, movements, and organizations are starting to reclaim and rebuild their communities. We applaud these efforts and their ongoing work. It is the work of doing justice and of being God’s kingdom here and now. We remember and hope and pray for God’s proclamation of safety in Ezekiel: “The trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase. [People] shall be secure on their soil … they shall live in safety, and no one shall make them afraid.” (Ezekiel 34:27-28)
With a vision of the great worth and sacredness of each person, and looking to and trusting in God, it is our prayer that we will be able to build community, do justice, grow equity, and be God’s kingdom on earth. We are working for and moving toward the day when this promise of God will be true for ALL people throughout the U.S. and everywhere: “You will be confident, because there is hope; you will look around you and lie down secure; you will rest, and no one will make you afraid. Many will seek your favor.” (Job 11:18-19)