God of Justice, help us to not keep silence in the midst of pain and suffering. Do not let us settle for a false peace, instead help us to work with passion and love until all the world experiences true peace, Amen.
I was having a conversation with a colleague about the recent unrest surrounding police violence and racism in America. During this conversation, I was told that Haitians are silent to the cause of African Americans in America. Immediately, I became defensive. I lashed out with many excuses, while simultaneously trying to process what was, for me, a rude awakening.
It is true that Haitian parents view education as a path for their children to improve their lives; believe that all must work tirelessly to overcome hardship; understand that white Americans will get all the good jobs, that Blacks and Latinos do not have the same opportunities. Haitians have immigrated to get a better life, free from political oppression, government corruption, human rights violations and desperate poverty. Haitians did not immigrate here in order to be thrust back into systemic racism, poverty and oppression. And yet, the reality of America is not always the dream Haitians believed it to be so I, and many Haitian brothers and sisters, find ourselves silent on the issue of racism in America.
That conversation shook me deeply in the “quietness of my soul,” which was grounded in false hope. The false hope that if I remain quiet, pray for my Black children and husband, and talk to them about staying safe if and when they are pulled by the police, all will be well. I came to realize not every silence is a “quietness of the soul.” When one can’t speak for pain or fear or shame, the soul is not quiet. When one’s outrage has been pushed to the unconscious abyss of silence, the soul is not quiet. When one knows and has been aware of the truth and keeps quiet, when one watches and remains silent, when one sees and refuses to speak, what kind of silence is that?
My mother, a wise woman and a peacemaker, is right in saying: “It’s better to be silent than to speak,” but one must know when “to keep silent and when to speak.” Her quote reminds me of the text that says: “There is…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.” We are in a time where silence is no longer golden.
As Christians, we are not called to stay silent when our siblings are suffering from injustice. The church’s role is not to be exclusively spiritual but called to speak against injustice and act in mercy.
Jesus’ call is disruptive. When Jesus calls the first two disciples, the Bible mentions that they left their nets and followed. So, we, too, are called to follow and leave some familiar things, places, people, habits and biases behind. For me, this disruption takes the form of leaving behind the thoughts of “being in the USA to get a better life and need not to meddle” in the epidemic of racism and injustice against our brothers and sisters.
Jesus calls us to love our neighbor. Our silence on issues of systemic racism, oppression and poverty is a failure to love our neighbor. It is an offense against God precisely because it violates the innate dignity of the human person. We cannot claim to love God unless we love our neighbor, we can only be one with God if we speak about, reject racism and work to remove it from our personal lives, our church and our society.
The Good News of Jesus Christ must propel us to go out and work to change the systemic culture that, for years, has done injustice to our siblings. We must speak up and say it’s not ok. Speaking against injustice is not about our individual comfort but bringing about the true peace in the quietness of the soul of all children of God. It is standing with the God of justice who will not keep silent and rest until all of creation is at peace. For the future of the church and our society, silence is not what is golden. Love is golden.