There Is No Justice without Racial Justice, Says CTA

Article excerpt

LOUISVILLE, KY. * Against the backdrop of a banner with the word "Aggiornamento!", speakers at Call To Action's national conference spoke of the Second Vatican Council's new way of being church in today's world.

For Call To Action, that new way cannot ignore racial justice work.

Since 2005, the church reform group based out of Chicago has been working at combating racism in facets of church and society, included its own organization.

Noted civil rights activist Diane Nash gave the keynote address Nov. 9 here, speaking on "agapic energy," a term that goes beyond nonviolence, she said, and is derived from a Greek word for "love of humankind."

"People are never your enemy," said Nash, who was a leader of the sit-ins in the 1960s civil rights movement.

Attitudes, systems and "-isms" (sexism, racism, etc.) are enemies, but the person is not, said Nash, who related her experience desegregating in the South.

"One of the problems with using violence to bring about social change is that you often kill individuals and leave the oppressive system, which is the real problem, untouched," she said.

Oppressors are not the only ones perpetuating the broken systems, she said. "Oppression always requires the cooperation of the oppressed. If the oppressed withdraw their cooperation from the oppressive system, that system will follow" and fall, she said.

About 1,500 people from across the country registered for the conference and more joined once the conference got under way. This year's conference had more than 400 people who had never attended a Call To Action conference before.

"There's the saying that there is no justice without racial justice," Rose Elizondo told NCR. Elizondo presented a workshop about issues of institutional and internalized racism.

"So if everyone is not at the table as we are speaking about reform, as we are trying to collaboratively bring reform in our church, then we are not going to have a powerful reformation movement," said Elizondo, who does restorative justice work at San Quentin State Prison in California.

"It's part of our call to follow Jesus in creating justice, peace and love in the world," said Myra Brown, a member of Call To Action's anti-racism team along with Elizondo. "We can't really step over oppression and feel like we're really doing that to the best of our abilities."

During her keynote, Nash recalled that people participating in the nonviolent actions in the 1960s sometimes got frustrated, but others reminded them of the importance of the work and that they were doing this "for generations yet unborn."

"And I'd like for younger people to know that we had you in mind and even though we had not met you, we loved you, and we were trying to bring about a society that was the best one we could shape for you to be born into and to come of age in."

Young adults are another focus of outreach for Call To Action and another focus of the conference. Matthew Fox, creation theologian and Episcopal priest, praised the "wisdom of the Occupy generation" and put his faith in the youth during his keynote.

He also spoke of the darkness of both religion and society today and the good news that comes out of the darkness.

"Church is a verb. It is where the Holy Spirit is at work," he said. Whether you work inside structures or outside, you have a call to embody the Holy Spirit to put your energy and talents into something--don't be an ecclesial couch potato, he said.

"The Holy Spirit does not retire," Fox said.

Other keynoters included Mohamed Abdul-Azeez, an imam who is the religious leader of SALAM Islamic Center in Sacramento, Calif., and Patricia Fresen, a member of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests from South Africa who assisted the development of that organization in North America. Social Service Sr. Simone Campbell, executive director of the social justice lobby NETWORK and of "Nuns on the Bus" fame, gave a homily at the liturgy on Sunday. …