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I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one.


As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.


-- John 17:20-21, NRSV

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COMMENTARY: Response to Hate Crimes PDF Print E-mail

By Rev. Dr. Samuel Royappa*

 

Crime and violence, especially hate-crimes based on race, color, gender, religion and sexual orientation, are increasing in the United States of America and the media calls it "the rise of hate in America.” Since 2000, it is reported that hate-groups in America have increased by 69%. As a disciple of Jesus Christ and minister of the gospel of love, I am convinced that there is no point in doing a postmortem of who is doing it, and what is the primary motive behind each hate-crime event. There are people out there who are mentally challenged (with psychological problems) and have access to deadly weapons, who continue to harm the humanity. It is quite interesting to note that there is no system in place anywhere to identify such individuals prior to their committing of horrific senseless crimes. But there is a system in place to investigate and interrogate after the crime is committed, and to let the world know of their past criminal record, their association with hate-groups, and their mental ill-health. Political and legal solutions may not be sufficient to deal with this complicated and controversial issue. Our nation is deeply divided over its gun culture, and debating this seems to get nowhere too.


However, I think something can be done about the public places, including our sanctuaries, theaters, educational institutions, malls, which are increasingly becoming unsafe. There is psychological fear out there among people and, particularly among the people of minority.



If and when the Church of Jesus Christ is conceived and perceived as, and claims to be The Faith Community (faith in God, faith in love, faith in joy, faith in peace, faith in hope, faith in healing), then we are called to do something. What can each local church and circuit do to prevent crime and violence, especially hate-crimes in the community? How can each local church intentionally and proactively promote and advocate love for humanity?

 

Missy Franklin won five gold medals in the 2012 Olympics and she hails from Aurora, Colorado, the same place where twelve people were killed in a senseless shooting. Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee, won a silver medal. Their positive actions and ideals have resulted in remarkable global achievements. In total, the U.S. won 104 Olympic medals this year. These accomplishments prove that we have the ability to do great things in our country. If we can achieve greatness in the Olympics, surely we can end hate-crimes if we work and pray together as a nation.

 

How can our local churches help our youth and children to set higher goals and expectations including love for humanity, doing no harm to anyone, doing good to all people, and growing in love with God and all people?

 

We all believe that the Church of Jesus Christ is entrusted with a mission and a commission for not only embracing the community around but also saving them from sin, sickness and death because the Church is called to do exactly what Jesus did. He walked among all people, offering help, hope and healing, and proclaiming the good news - life is precious; love is supreme. Nothing more, nothing less.


Many drops make an ocean. Simple creative things can make a difference where our faith-love-hope communities are located. Most of our churches have a vision or mission statement for their faith community, but should they all have a vision statement about love for humanity? Hate-groups should be encountered by love-groups, and that's only possible when our churches initiate, promote and implement this practice in simple and practical ways. The million-dollar question is: can our churches have love-groups that can outnumber hate-groups in the near future?

 

Are there best practices that our United Methodist churches could implement so that they become centers or stations or outposts of love? God so loved the world that churches promote nothing but agape and shalom.

 

 

* Dr. Royappa is a District Superintendent in the Wisconsin Annual Conference and a GCCUIC board member.

 

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