“After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.” —Revelation 7:9
As a multiethnic denomination, we seek for the Evangelical Covenant Church to become an authentic reflection of the kingdom of God—here on earth—as depicted in Revelation. We especially pray we may continue to grow in our ability to cultivate eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to respond to the suffering of our sisters and brothers both near and far. Guided by the Holy Spirit, we do all we can to abide by the new command Christ gave us: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
Together, we pursue Christlike love for one another, knowing that how we love attests to the One to whom we belong. Our love is meant to be missional, evangelistic, and transformational, so that people may come to know Christ through our sacrificial love for one another, and our love may produce unity, healing, and reconciliation in a divided world.
In the Covenant, the 6-Fold-Test for Multiethnic Ministry helps us discern how we love one another well. The newest addition to this test—practicing solidarity—is a call to prioritize becoming an interconnected body as we learn to intentionally mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice.
In this present moment, it is appropriate for us to collectively discern how we can practice solidarity with our Asian and Asian American sisters and brothers—many of whom are mourning and lamenting right now. Our sisters and brothers of Asian descent have seen an increase in ethnic profiling, scapegoating, hate crimes, and boycotts of their businesses in correlation with the rise of the coronavirus (COVID-19). To read how Covenanters have been subjected to xenophobia, click here.
In New York, for example, which is home to one of the largest Chinese communities outside of China, business owners have experienced an “unprecedented” decline, seeing between a 30% to 70% drop in sales since the first COVID-19 death was reported in the U.S. Chinese and Asian American businesses nationally have reported an 18% decrease in business as customers fear catching coronavirus in these establishments and their ethnic enclaves.
And fear rises for our Asian and Asian Americans sisters and brothers each time COVID-19 is irresponsibly referred to as the “Chinese virus.” As Covenanters, we are outraged by language that scapegoats and maligns amid the violence, stereotyping, and ostracization so many are experiencing.
Given these realities, here are a few suggested ways we can practice solidarity with the Covenant Asian Pastors Association and our sisters and brothers of Asian descent right now.
1. Speak up when we hear the coronavirus referred to as the “Chinese virus.” While the virus originated in China, in 2015 the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a best practices statement for naming new human infectious diseases, calling on scientists, national authorities, and the media “to follow best practices in naming new human infectious diseases to minimize unnecessary negative effects on nations, economies and people.” They explained, “In recent years, several new human infectious diseases have emerged. The use of names such as ‘swine flu’ and ‘Middle East Respiratory Syndrome’ has had unintended negative impacts by stigmatizing certain communities or economic sectors.” WHO adds that “best practices state that a disease name should consist of generic descriptive terms, based on the symptoms that the disease causes,” and that “Terms that should be avoided in disease names include geographic locations (e.g., Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, Spanish Flu, Rift Valley Fever).
2. Pray for our Covenant Asian Pastors Association, sisters and brothers whom we labor alongside and who are being targeted in everyday interactions. Speak up if you see something inappropriate.
3. Provide spaces for prayerful support and intercession for our sisters and brothers.
4. Support your local Chinese and Asian restaurants, even if you can only order takeout right now. Many are being boycotted or losing some of their traditional customer support.
6. Use this as a teaching opportunity to explain to your community the robust diversity of Asian and Asian American communities. (According to the 2000 U.S. Census, “single race” Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders comprised 4.2 percent of the U.S. population. Of the individuals who reported being multiracial, almost 13 percent reported being partially of Asian heritage. Asian-Americans/Pacific Islanders is one of the fastest growing visible racial/ethnic groups, with a projected increase in population to 6.2 percent by 2025, and 8.9 percent by 2050. Although the three largest Asian ethnic groups are Japanese, Chinese and Filipino, the terms “Asian-American” and “Pacific Islander” encompass more than 50 distinct racial/ethnic groups, in which more than 30 different languages are spoken.)
7. Help your community understand the link between present xenophobic language and the historic propaganda that has been used to stigmatize Asians and Asian Americans, such as “yellow peril” and perpetual foreigner syndrome. These anti-Chinese sentiments led to a terrorist atmosphere where Chinese Americans were forcefully driven out of over 40 U.S. cities in the mid-19th century. Anti-Asian worldviews have also led to discriminatory policies such as the Chinese Exclusion Act and Executive Order 9066, which commissioned Japanese internment camps.
8. Help spread the word about the Stop Anti-Asian Hate Center, a new initiative where people can report incidents of COVID-19 discrimination. This website will use the data collected to track racism and respond strategically.
9. Read and share this article on ECC pastor Eugene Cho’s denunciation of the use of the term “Chinese virus.” One CAPA leader lamented the negative feedback Cho has received for his statements, then added, “I think he said what many of us might have felt/thought but lacked the platform or nerve to say. As the criticism comes…, I wonder what it’d look like for him and others to know that the larger church has his back.”
10. Start, or find, a local Go Fund Me account to support Asian workers at Asian grocery stores, restaurants, and services who have been laid off. Call your local Asian businesses, and ask if they are okay and how you can help.
As we live into what it means to be a part of this beautiful multiethnic mosaic of the Evangelical Covenant Church, we recognize this season may be an opportunity to collectively discern how we most faithfully love and stand in solidarity with each other. In the ECC, we know and truly believe that we are better together.
We are all indispensable parts of the kingdom mosaic!
Love Mercy Do Justice, Covenant Asian Pastors Association board, and Presidents of the Ethnic Associations
Rev. Dominique Gilliard, LMDJ, Director of Racial Righteousness and Reconciliation
Rev. Mary Chung March, President of the Covenant Asian Pastors Association (CAPA)
Rev. Stephanie Ahn Mathis, CAPA 1st Vice President
Rev. Manoj Mathai, CAPA 2nd Vice President
Rev. Brian Hui, CAPA Treasurer
Rev. Ancy Susan Post, CAPA Secretary
Rev. Greg Yee, Superintendent of the Pacific Northwest Conference
Rev. Juana Nesta, President of the Associación Latina de la Iglesia del Pacto Evangélico
Rev. T.J. Smith, President of the Indigenous Ministers Association
Rev. Bryan Murphy, President of the African American Ministers Association