Connect with us

Religion

Black Christians and Muslims Unite Around Burned Churches

Published

on

church-burning

By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – In the last week of June, as the nation was still mourning and mulling over the massacre at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., seven other Black churches across the South went up in flames.

Solidarity came out of the ashes.

Since July 2, the Respond With Love campaign has raised more than $66,000 and counting toward rebuilding the churches. The Muslim-led fundraiser is a joint effort between Ummah Wide, a global digital media storytelling organization for and by young Muslims; MuslimARC, which combats racism within the Muslim diaspora; and the Arab American Association of New York.

As the reports of the fires spread to the masses, Chicago resident Faatimah Knight and her friend David Craun, founder and executive director of Ummah Wide, felt they had to do something. They began a fundraiser on LaunchGood.com, hoping to raise $10,000 to contribute to a general outpouring. Over the next day, Knight, Craun, and leaders of the other groups teamed up.

“I feel this was racially motivated crime, and being a Black person, I naturally feel implicated. Even though I’m not Christian, I’m still Black – I’m still a part of that target group,” Knight says, adding that she also has Christian friends and family to worry about.

A flurry of media coverage and the month of Ramadan, which began the day after the Mother Emmanuel attack, boosted the campaign’s profile. In 12 hours, donations swelled past the original $10,000 goal. The bar was raised to $30,000, then to $50,000, and currently to $75,000, as donations keep coming in.

“It’s a time of year when Muslims are hyper-aware of their faith and their duties to others, their duties to God,” Knight explains. “At Ramadan, Muslims spend so much time at mosque. It’s a time when we value our place of worship more than any other time. I can definitely empathize with someone having that taken away.”

Since the September 11 attacks, mosques and Muslim communities have remained targets of racial and religious hatred. During Ramadan 2012, an arsonist who identified as a conservative Christian Iraq veteran burned the Islamic Center in Joplin, Mo. to the ground. It was his second attack that summer on the same center.

In April, former Tennessee Congressional candidate, Robert Doggert, was arrested for planning a violent, burning-shooting attack on a Muslim community in upstate New York. In May, “patriots” in Dallas and Phoenix launched Muhammad drawing contests and armed demonstrations outside of mosques.

Namira Islam, executive director of Detroit-based MuslimARC, says the church burnings remind her of both the attacks on mosques and the history of Black church burnings and bombings.

“Our mosques have been attacked. There are mosques that have been burned down, too. In that sense, all of our fates are intertwined. It’s happening again – knowing the history behind…Black church burnings in the U.S. It’s outright terror,” she says.

“When you think about fire, something like arson…. It’s a hate crime. Obviously, there is a legal definition involved, but the act is very hateful.”

Black churches have been burned, bombed, or otherwise threatened regularly since Emancipation, with spikes during the Civil Rights Movement and again during the 1990s – to the point that President Bill Clinton created the now-defunct National Church Arson Task Force.

One study published in the official journal of the National Association of Social Workers found more than 300 racially motivated church bombings or burnings in the 1960s, and an additional 200 between 1989 and 1996. After President Obama’s election in 2008, two White men were convicted of burning down Macedonia Church of God in Christ church in Springfield, Mass. in response.

Three of the seven torched Black churches have been declared arson: College Hill Seventh Day Adventist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon, Ga., and Briar Creek Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C. None are being investigated as hate crimes.

The FBI says a lightning strike started the fire at Mount Zion AME in Greeleyville, S.C., the last of the seven churches lost. In 1995, two Ku Klux Klan members burned it down; when it was rebuilt a year later, Clinton visited and made a speech on racism.

The fire at Fruitland Presbyterian Church in Fruitland, Tenn. was also attributed to lightning. The cause of Glover Grove Baptist Church’s fire, in Warrenville, S.C. remains a mystery. At Greater Miracle Temple Apostolic Holiness Church in Tallahassee, Fla., investigators say an electric accident after a thunderstorm felled a tree and downed power lines was to blame.

Knight says that the shared experience of being targeted isn’t the only connection between Muslims and Black Christians.

“[The Quran says] you’ll find some of the closest people to you are Christians, because they are humble and not arrogant,” she says, referencing Quran verse 5:82. “In our own Scripture, God praises another group for their character. Trying to live out those words is important.”

In addition to the Respond With Love fundraiser, the Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis, Mo. has launched a national fundraising effort that has earned almost $160,000 so far and counting. Simultaneously, nearly 200 churches, mosques, and synagogues around the country have also pledged to take up a special offering this month in connection with the campaign.

Some of the Respond with Love donations went toward floral arrangements for each of the surviving family members of the nine people killed at Emanuel AME Church. MuslimARC is also providing educational resources on the history of White supremacist terrorism against Black churches, and other opportunities for those who cannot donate but want to help. Ummah Wide members, including Knight, are discussing the possibility of visiting one of the churches to help with construction.

Knight and Islam say they have been in minimal contact with some of the leadership of the affected churches, but that the congregations are still processing the tragedies and figuring out logistics. In the meantime, the organizers are deciding how best to distribute the funds once the campaign closes on July 18.

“Churches are places where God’s name is remembered. When a place where people praise God is taken away, that creates a void,” says Knight. “I didn’t want [the fires] to be the end of the story.”

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Bay Area

Jehovah’s Witnesses Returning to In-Person Meetings

The move back to in-person meetings coincided with two global events being held in all 120,000 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The first was a special lecture scheduled in most congregations for April 10, 2022, entitled “Where Can You Find Real Hope?” Additionally, the annual commemoration of the death of Jesus Christ was held on April 15, 2022, the very day he sacrificed his life 1,989 years ago. Both of these gatherings were held in person at local Kingdom Halls with live speakers. No collections are ever taken.

Published

on

For more information on Jehovah’s Witnesses go to jw.org.
For more information on Jehovah’s Witnesses go to jw.org.

After Two Years Virtual, Congregations Are Meeting Together Again

All congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide were encouraged to resume in-person meetings last month.

The announcement to return to the Kingdom Hall was a pleasant and long-awaited surprise. “My initial thought was excitement,” said Andrena Morris, an Oakland resident who has been attending meetings for over 40 years. She treasures the love and unity felt when connecting with fellow congregants in person. Being at the meetings is vital for her. “It’s like a spiritual lifeline,” Morris said.

For most of the last two years, buildings for worship have remained closed globally due to the risks associated with meeting in person. Jehovah’s Witnesses in the U.S. also suspended their public ministry on March 20, 2020. Since that time, they have carried on their ministry through letters and phone calls while holding twice-weekly meetings in a virtual format. Average attendance at these meetings exceeded 1.5 million each week in the U.S., even though there are fewer than 1.3 million Jehovah’s Witnesses in some 13,000 congregations.

“There is a collective shout of joy among Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world right now,” said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “While we have prospered in many ways as individuals and congregations using technology to bring us together, nothing can adequately replace being together in person. We have longed for this moment for the better part of two years.”

The move back to in-person meetings coincided with two global events being held in all 120,000 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The first was a special lecture scheduled in most congregations for April 10, 2022, entitled “Where Can You Find Real Hope?” Additionally, the annual commemoration of the death of Jesus Christ was held on April 15, 2022, the very day he sacrificed his life 1,989 years ago. Both of these gatherings were held in person at local Kingdom Halls with live speakers. No collections are ever taken.

“The timing of resuming in-person meetings could not be better,” said Hendriks. “Bringing everyone back together for these special events will have a powerful effect on the worldwide congregation.”

Guidelines for holding “hybrid” meetings have been sent to all congregations in the United States. Over the past six months, many Kingdom Halls have been equipped with the required technology to hold a productive meeting that allows for in-person and remote attendees, all of whom can participate in the discussions.

A pilot program was held in October and November 2021 in countries around the world to assess how this could be done most effectively. The lessons learned in these pilot meetings have helped form the plan for moving forward with reopening all Kingdom Halls, where the law permits.

“It has been heartwarming to see the peace and unity among Jehovah’s Witnesses during this very divisive time,” said Hendriks. “We know resuming in-person meetings will bring us even closer together. We’re anxious to see one another again.”

Anticipating seeing her spiritual family in person, Morris became emotional. “The biggest thing I remember as we headed to the Kingdom Hall was seeing the parking lot full of cars,” said Morris. “I could just feel my heart stir.”

As of now, Jehovah’s Witnesses have no plans to resume their public ministry, though their “alternative” ministry continues. In fact, since the start of the pandemic through November 2021 in the U.S. alone, Jehovah’s Witnesses spent more than 400 million hours in virtual Bible studies, writing letters of comfort to their neighbors and making phone calls.

They have released 77 new language translations of the Bible and held two global virtual conventions in more than 500 languages.

“No time was wasted in the past two years,” said Hendriks. “Our congregants have been busy and productive helping each other and their neighbors through this most challenging time. That’s what love and unity are all about.”

For more information on Jehovah’s Witnesses go to jw.org.

Continue Reading

Bay Area

Berkeley School of Theology Announces Creation of the J. Alfred Smith, Sr. Endowed Chair of Theology in the Public Square

BST President Dr. James Brenneman stated “This endowed chair in Dr. Smith’s name is part of the establishment of a new Center for Truth, Racial Healing and Restorative Justice made possible through the largest lead gift ever given to BST from the good people of First Baptist Church of Palo Alto and other donors of nearly $3 million.

Published

on

Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr., pastor emeritus of Allen Temple Baptist Church. Courtesy of Dr. Smith.
Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Sr., pastor emeritus of Allen Temple Baptist Church. Courtesy of Dr. Smith.

By Rev. Dr. Martha C. Taylor

Berkeley School of Theology’s president and Board of Trustees unanimously approved the creation of the J. Alfred Smith, Sr. Endowed Chair of Theology in the Public Square on April 8, 2022.

Berkeley School of Theology (BST), located at 2606 Dwight Way in Berkeley was formerly known as the American Baptist Seminary of the West.

An endowed chair is the highest academic honor that a college, university, or seminary can bestow upon a person and/or the faculty member who will serve their professorship in the endowed chair.

For clarity, an ‘endowed chair’ is not a plaque, certificate, or money contribution to Dr. Smith, rather having a chair named in one’s honor means they have reached the highest academic honor.

Further, people are not endowed, but the position is endowed, meaning it is fully funded. An endowed chair is a tribute to the donor who establishes it and to the person whom they have chosen.

BST President Dr. James Brenneman stated “This endowed chair in Dr. Smith’s name is part of the establishment of a new Center for Truth, Racial Healing and Restorative Justice made possible through the largest lead gift ever given to BST from the good people of First Baptist Church of Palo Alto and other donors of nearly $3 million.

Dr. James Brenneman, president of the Berkeley School of Theology. Courtesy of BST.

Dr. James Brenneman, president of the Berkeley School of Theology. Courtesy of BST.

‘In the Public Square’ refers to how Smith deliberately ministered beyond the walls of the church. With deep gratitude, Brenneman noted the spiritual legacy Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr. imprinted upon BST and countless students, faculty, and graduates that will live on in perpetuity because of “these generous life-changing gifts.”

The person selected to hold the chair position must be a highly qualified, full-time faculty member, with proven ability to do inter-disciplinary and contextual work, be knowledgeable of experience in anti-racism, restorative justice and more.

Dr. Smith Sr. is a BST graduate (’72) who also served for some 35 years as distinguished professor, acting dean, and now emeritus professor of Christian Ministry and Preaching when the seminary was formerly known as the American Baptist Seminary of the West (ABSW).

Dr. Smith holds a Bachelor of Science (’52), a Bachelor of Divinity (’59), two master’s degrees in Theology (’66, ’72), a doctorate in ministry (’75), and several honorary doctorates and served as the state and national president of the Progressive Baptist Convention.

He was a national leader in the Civil Rights Movement with a lifetime of doing theology in the public square, public advocacy at City Hall. He is the author of 16 books, has lectured at Harvard, Yale, Duke, Morehouse, and Howard, and other esteemed institutions. He has testified against apartheid before the United Nations, preached to thousands from Seoul, Korea, to Sierra Leone (Africa) to China and beyond.

He served 38 years as Senior Pastor, now emeritus, of the historic Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, CA.

I had the honor of serving as the Pastoral Administrative Assistant to Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr. for 10 years. On occasion I assisted him in teaching at the seminary, providing me with an “insider’s look” at his pastoral and academic works and responsibilities.

He introduced hundreds of seminary students to theological training, the art of preaching, African American Spirituality and the deep meaning of Howard Thurman’s “Jesus and the Disinherited” and much more.

‘Theology in the Public Square’ is how Dr. Smith engaged his ministry to communities. We are familiar with the phrase ‘Thy will be done on Earth.’ Dr. Smith ‘majored’ in the will of Jesus Christ for his concern for the well-being of society on earth.

Like the ministry of Jesus who ‘majored’ in his ministry beyond the walls of the synagogue, Dr. Smith Sr. preached, prophesized, pastored, taught, and ministered beyond the walls of the church.

Dr. Smith Sr. was passionate about helping others understand the meaning of his famous phrase, “In order to get to the sweet by and by, you must deal with the nasty now and now.”

In other words, theology in the public square is about addressing the needs of people who are hurting economically, who are disenfranchised, and victims of an unjust society.

Continue Reading

Black History

OP-ED: New Study Brings Black Catholics into Forefront

Pew’s 2021 study reports that 46% of Black young adults in Generation Z (ages 18-23 at the time of the survey) seldom or never attend religious services. Organized religion — across denominations — ignores this finding at its peril. The sex abuse crisis has already damaged the church’s credibility across generations. This reality coupled with Pew’s finding that close to half of all young Black American adults rarely or never attend religious services should be a warning to Church leaders that concrete action must be taken now.

Published

on

Members of the Voice of Praise Ensemble sing during Mass Nov. 17, 2019, at St. Therese of Lisieux Church in Brooklyn, New York, in celebration of November as National Black Catholic History Month. (CNS/The Tablet/Andrew Pugliese).
Members of the Voice of Praise Ensemble sing during Mass Nov. 17, 2019, at St. Therese of Lisieux Church in Brooklyn, New York, in celebration of November as National Black Catholic History Month. (CNS/The Tablet/Andrew Pugliese).

By Nia Tia Noelle Pratt

My entire 20-year career has been about ending the erasure of Black Catholics from academic and public discourse.

This is one of the reasons I began the #BlackCatholicsSyllabus and articulated from the outset that the point of the syllabus is to prioritize the voices of Black Catholics in the creation of our own narrative. It’s also why this week’s Pew Research Center report, “Black Catholics in America” is the data I dreamed of having as an undergraduate and graduate student. I also dreamed of having a report like this in the years since I finished graduate school.

Much of my efforts have focused on ending erasure within the Catholic sphere. However, Black Catholics are not just erased from Catholic narratives — they are also erased from discourse on the Black church as well.

This dual erasure is why Pew Research Center’s report is so important. Along with last year’s “Faith Among Black Americans,” this week’s survey on Black Catholics is urgently needed. Both are poised to be regarded as landmark studies.

“Black Catholics in America,” published on March 15, examines Black Catholics within a larger Catholic contest and within the context of “Faith Among Black Americans.”

The new study tells us that 6% of Black Americans are Catholics. While this percentage is admittedly small, it still means that there are nearly 3 million Black Catholics in the U.S.

Millions of people must be included in the conversation about what it means to be Catholic in our country if the conversation is going to be comprehensive. Furthermore, we learn from this study that 20% of Black Americans born in sub-Saharan Africa and 15% of Caribbean-born Black Americans identify as Catholic while only 5% of U.S.-born Black Americans identify as Catholic.

“These numbers tell us that Black Catholics in the United States are not a monolith. These drastically different numbers deserve further consideration by scholars and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as well as dioceses and parishes. Church leaders must keep this in mind in ministering to Black Catholics and creating pastoral plans. Similarly, scholars must incorporate this knowledge into their research.

I was not surprised to learn from the full report that only 17% of Black Catholics attend a predominantly Black church and a comparable 18% of Black Catholics report a combination of call-and-response, and other expressive forms of worship during Mass. Part of my research involves examining liturgy as a form of identity work where I’ve discussed just this type of worship experience in detail.

I’ve discussed at length how African American Catholics incorporate music, preaching and Church aesthetics into liturgy in order to create a unique identity as African Americans and as Catholics.

Only 41% of Black Catholics report having heard a homily on race in the 12 months prior to completing the survey and only 31% reported hearing a homily on political engagement in the same time period. The reckoning around systemic racism that we have seen over the last year has demonstrated that it is long past time for the church to regard racism as a pro-life issue.

For this reason, these findings are also a call to action. A thunderous 77% of Black Catholics said that “opposition to racism is essential to what being Christian means to them.”

Many Black Catholics are not getting a message at Mass that they identify as something essential to being a Christian.

This week’s report also tells us that 46% of Black adults who were raised Catholic no longer identify as such. The aforementioned disconnect between the themes Black Catholics hear about at Mass and what they consider essential to being a Christian provides some insight as to why so many Black Catholics leave the church. The results for young adults only exacerbate this situation.

Pew’s 2021 study reports that 46% of Black young adults in Generation Z (ages 18-23 at the time of the survey) seldom or never attend religious services. Organized religion — across denominations — ignores this finding at its peril. The sex abuse crisis has already damaged the church’s credibility across generations. This reality coupled with Pew’s finding that close to half of all young Black American adults rarely or never attend religious services should be a warning to Church leaders that concrete action must be taken now.

Since the summer of 2020, the U.S. bishops’ conference has hosted “Journeying Together” as an ongoing series of events focused on young adults and those who minister to young adults. While this is a concrete action directed at young adults, it reaches those who are already actively engaged in the church. Evangelization must be directed at those young adults who are not, or are only minimally, engaged. Refusing to critically engage this group will not bode well for the sustainability of parishes and schools in the decades to come.

Tia Noelle Pratt is director of mission engagement and strategic initiatives and courtesy assistant professor of sociology at Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania.

Continue Reading

Subscribe to receive news and updates from the Oakland Post

* indicates required

CHECK OUT THE LATEST ISSUE OF THE OAKLAND POST

ADVERTISEMENT

WORK FROM HOME

Home-based business with potential monthly income of $10K+ per month. A proven training system and website provided to maximize business effectiveness. Perfect job to earn side and primary income. Contact Lynne for more details: Lynne4npusa@gmail.com 800-334-0540

Facebook

Trending