As leaders in the Lausanne Movement, our hearts have been breaking. We have been listening to stories of personal and public injustice and racial discrimination. We have heard the weeping of those who have lost loved ones to violence and brutality. We have been grieved by the hardness of heart displayed by leaders who cannot admit responsibility or see the systemic issues and historical wrongdoings that have fed social inequalities and disruption of communities over generations.
Currently the spotlight is focused on the US and on the massive protests arising from the callous public murder of George Floyd by police officers, the latest in the sad chain of similar incidents. But the protests have spread far beyond the US because the deep-seated issues of racism and injustice are not just American problems. Ethnic violence, destructive tribalism, casteism, callous mistreatment and abuse of immigrants, discrimination against the disabled, enslavement of the vulnerable, oppression of the weak, hatred of the ‘other’, and glorification of violence take many forms. This is a problem of our sinful humanity.
The prophet Isaiah described the promised Messiah as ‘a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief’ (Isaiah 53:3). When Jesus, the fulfillment of that promise, summarized his mission in his hometown of Nazareth, he quoted another prophecy of Isaiah, saying:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-19)
Jesus confronted and exposed the hypocrisy of the religious and political leaders of his day, who were using their positions of privilege for their own economic gain and to feed their own egos, while marginalizing the poor and neglecting the priorities of justice, mercy, and faithfulness (Matthew 23).
As leaders of the Lausanne Movement and as faithful followers of Jesus, we stand with Jesus in solidarity with the poor, the captive, the oppressed, the broken. We want to listen to the stories of grief, and not turn away because they are too difficult to hear or because they expose our own hypocrisies and lies.
We affirm that each human being is made in the image of God and should be treated with the dignity he or she deserves. There is one human race. We share a common humanity. And the beautiful mosaic of skin colors and ethnicities and cultures are all part of God’s magnificent design to reveal his glory.
We confess that each of us is broken in different ways. Each of us nurtures different expressions of arrogance and prejudice. Each of us has been guilty of cruelty or contempt or injustice in our words or in our actions. Each of us needs to be forgiven, and each of us needs to be transformed by the atoning work that Jesus accomplished on the cross. ‘We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all’ (Isaiah 53:6). ‘He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world’ (1 John 2:2).
And so we lament the tragic racism and systemic injustice that has been on display in American society. We weep with those who have personally been the victims of discrimination and violence. We listen in silence to those who are trying to help us see our own blind spots. We are challenged again by the words of the prophet Micah: ‘What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God’ (Micah 6:8). We search for ways to be instruments of peace, reconciliation, and justice. And we commit ourselves anew to be followers of Jesus, proclaiming and demonstrating that ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Galatians 3:28).
David Bennett, Global Associate Director for Collaboration and Content (US)
Las Newman, Global Associate Director for Regions (Jamaica)
Nana Yaw Offei Awuku, Global Associate Director for Generations (Ghana)
Michael Oh, Global Executive Director / CEO (US)
Excerpts from The Cape Town Commitment II-B-2
‘Ethnic diversity is the gift and plan of God in creation. It has been spoiled by human sin and pride, resulting in confusion, strife, violence and war among nations. However, ethnic diversity will be preserved in the new creation, when people from every nation, tribe, people and language will gather as the redeemed people of God. We confess that we often fail to take ethnic identity seriously and to value it as the Bible does, in creation and redemption. We fail to respect the ethnic identity of others and ignore the deep wounds that such long-term disrespect causes.’
‘For the sake of the gospel, we lament, and call for repentance where Christians have participated in ethnic violence, injustice or oppression. We also call for repentance for the many times Christians have been complicit in such evils by silence, apathy or presumed neutrality, or by providing defective theological justification for these.’
‘We long for the day when the Church will be the world’s most visibly shining model of ethnic reconciliation and its most active advocate for conflict resolution.’