Standing in Solidarity with Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

HNP Communications In the Headlines, Justice and Peace

Hate-fueled racist attacks and violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have increased dramatically in cities across the U.S., incited largely by incendiary, xenophobic rhetoric that falsely blames Asian people for the spread of COVID-19. In New York City, for example, hate crimes provoked by anti-Asian sentiment surged to record levels in 2020 during the pandemic, according to police. Last year, during a three-month period in California, more than 800 COVID-related hate incidents were reported across the state.

The boundaries of the virus of hate haven’t been limited to the United States. Hate crimes targeting Asian communities are spinning into a global crisis, with countries around the world – such as Australia, Brazil, Canada, Italy, New Zealand, Russia, and the United Kingdom – reporting a rise in attacks against the AAPI community.

In addition to the Province’s Migrant Center of New York providing education and advocacy programs and participating in demonstrations and rallies, the Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province have released a statement denouncing the hate and violence against the AAPI community and expressing solidarity and support for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

The HNP statement, published April 8 on social media and the website, read:

Hate speech and attacks against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are a deplorable part of the history of the United States. The sad legacy of this evil is that such prejudice, a form of racism, has been tolerated within our country. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there has been a dramatic uptick in violence against the AAPI community, with instances increasing by over 150% between February 2020 and March 2021. Perpetrators of this type of hatred have used Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders as scapegoats for their unjust bias.

Along with religious, political, and educational leaders, as well as other people of goodwill, we Friars Minor stand in solidarity with our Asian American and Pacific Islander sisters and brothers. Our solidarity is further rooted in the reality that some of our own friars and people we serve at our ministries have been targets of this hate. We pray for their safety and peace of mind. We will work with them and others to ensure that their God-given right to live in harmony within the human community is recognized and protected. We also pray for those who have harmed them in speech or action, that they will be moved by God’s grace to a conversion of heart.

We commit ourselves to reaching out to support our brothers and sisters from Asia and the Pacific Islands. We must educate our local fraternities and the people we serve about the troubling history of this form of racism. In addition, our vision of inclusive ministry must be broadened to embrace the multicultural vision put forth in the 2018 USCCB document Encountering Christ in Harmony – A Pastoral Response to Our Asian and Pacific Island Brothers and Sisters

Laws to protect Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders already are in place on national and state levels. These laws must be enforced to ensure people’s safety. Tragically, within our culture, bias and hatred against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (and others) are frequently expressed in acts using guns. As a result, we must work within the political process to advance the common good by supporting effective public policy that limits gun violence.

Prayer, education, and political action are necessary, but so too is the conversion of hearts to become more inclusive of others. Standing alongside and standing up for our Asian American and Pacific Islander brothers and sisters should motivate us again to be “born anew” in this Easter season so that the Risen Lord’s gift of “new life” may take root in us. Emboldened by this rebirth, may we more readily reach out in love to all of God’s people.

In 2020, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops published a book, “Encountering Christ in Harmony,” as a follow-up to the document released two years earlier whose principal author was Linh Hoang, OFM, a consultant to the USCCB Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Island Affairs.

The goal of the book was threefold: to advance the Church’s mission of evangelization to specific cultural groups; to assist dioceses, religious orders, parish leaders, and the faithful in pastoral outreach to Asian and Pacific Island Catholics; and to provide resources and information about Asian and Pacific Island Catholic communities. The pastoral statement in the book ends with a Prayer for “Encountering Christ in Harmony.”

Education and Advocacy
To assist individuals seeking to learn how to become advocates for those facing bias and violence, the Province’s Migrant Center of New York, which is affiliated with the Church of St. Francis of Assisi on West 31st Street, has been offering opportunities for advocacy and education.

Volunteers and other supporters of the cause have also participated in peaceful anti-hate/anti-violence demonstrations – including a February event in lower Manhattan called “Rally to Rise Up Against Hate,” and a March 6 demonstration in Queens called “Stand Up Against Asian Hate.”

On April 6, in conjunction with the Asian American Federation, the Migrant Center offered a webinar titled “A Year of Asian Hate: Where Do We Go from Here?” The discussion began with remarks from Julian Jagudilla, OFM, executive director of the Migrant Center. The webinar concluded with a benediction by Michael Reyes, OFM, who, like Julian, is part of the friar team at the 31st Street parish.

The program opened with a powerful presentation by Noel Quintana, a Filipino and Migrant Center volunteer who was attacked on Feb. 3 because of his ethnicity. The attack and violence against Quintana received much media attention.

During the webinar, four community leaders spoke about factors that have contributed to the surge in attacks against Asian Americans and tangible ways to create immediate and long-term safety for the Asian community. More than 500 people participated in the Tuesday evening program, which was moderated by Arthur Chi’en, an Emmy Award-winning newscaster.

“It is important that we all do everything that we can to stand up for justice and to advocate against hate toward all ethnic groups,” said Julian.

A recording of the April 6 webinar can be found on the Facebook page of the Asian American Foundation, an organization established in 1989 to increase the influence and advocate for the well-being of the pan-Asian American community through research, policy advocacy, public awareness, and nonprofit support. It is the largest leadership organization in New York serving diverse Asian American communities that make up the fastest-growing population in the city, state, and country, according to its website. 

Editor’s note: Franciscans have released statements supporting other communities and causes. Among them was the condemnation by Provincial Ministers of six U.S. provinces of bullying and violence toward LGBT youth that was released in March.