A Call to Action in Response to Deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile

CONTACT: Drew Konow, konow@religiousinstitute.org, 203-222-0055

July 7, 2016—Religious Institute president Marie Alford-Harkey released the following statement in response to the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

“Today we awoke to the news of another police officer shooting and killing a black man. As an organization committed to seeking the ideal of wholeness for all people in faith communities and society, we cannot ignore the ways in which the state-sanctioned violence against people of color is destroying lives and communities.

“It is time to break the silence. We mourn the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and so many other black and brown people at the hands of the police. We join their families, their loved ones, and their communities in rage and lament.

“When black and brown people are targeted by racist systems that perpetuate violence, this is a direct affront to our belief in reproductive justice. We believe that all people should have the freedom to have children and to raise them without fear that they will be hurt or killed. When black and brown people are routinely targeted, beaten, or killed by police, no such freedom—for oneself or one’s children—is possible. We see the heart-wrenching effects of such violence and fear of violence in the words of Quinyetta McMilan, the mother of Alton Sterling’s eldest child. She said ‘As a mother, I have been forced to raise a son who is going to remember what happened to his father, that I can’t take away from him. He is at an age of understanding. I hurt more for him and his loss. As a parent, one of the greatest fears is to see your child hurt and knowing there’s nothing you can do about it.’

“Our faith requires us to stare into the darkness of death, confront the misery of injustice, experience the pain caused by violence, and still commit to imagining and working toward another kind of world.

“As we strive to imagine and create a world where black and brown lives matter and where all people can raise their children without fear, we call upon communities of faith to commit or recommit to forms of prayer, reflection, and action that combat systemic racism and injustice. This weekend, we call on preachers throughout the country to address the killing of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the many others who have died at the hands of police. This is not an easy message to preach, but it is necessary. Communities of faith must join in working to dismantle the sins of systemic racism that plague our country and devalue the lives of black and brown people. Otherwise, sexual and reproductive justice are not possible in faith communities or in society.”

A working collection of preaching and other congregational resources can be found here.


 The Religious Institute (www.religiousinstitute.org), based in Westport, CT, is a nonprofit, multifaith organization dedicated to advocating for sexual health, education and justice in faith communities and society. More than 8,500 clergy, seminary presidents and deans, religious scholars and other religious leaders representing more than 50 faith traditions are part of the Religious Institute’s national religious leaders network.
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