We hear the weary and collective chant - “I can’t breathe”- from Black people and their allies. We grieve that centuries of systemic injustice and persistent racism have had - and continue to have - horrendous consequences on the security, health, livelihoods, and sense of self-worth of countless people.
We acknowledge that, by direct action, inaction or design, organized religion has often participated in, ignored or hidden the destructive practice of racial oppression.
Whether found in overt acts of abuse and intimidation or subtle biases that humiliate and marginalize, racism is pervasive. Anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, anti-Asian, anti-Arab and anti-immigrant racism has influenced policy, segregated people, limited education, restricted healthcare, tainted justice, shattered families and caused harm.
The global pandemic has laid bare the inequity racialized people face. By sheltering from the virus in our homes to protect our health, our families, our education and our economy, we are learning anew the value of community. And yet images and reports of racial slurs, excessive force and callous disregard for human life that appear on our screens confirm that the same care and protection is not given to all. Racism is a more tenacious pandemic perpetuated by ignorance and a failure to listen or care.
When someone talks and isn’t heard, they shout. When they shout and aren’t listened to, they scream. When they scream and are still not heard by those in a position to remove or lessen their pain, they take to the streets and protest. Anger at racism is justified and is needed to bring about necessary change.
As Faith Leaders, we need to speak out clearly and consistently against harmful injustice - not from positions of privilege - but in words that are attentive, inclusive, responsive and empowering. Acknowledging our own flaws, we strive to make and hold space for voices that need to be heard – to honour and learn from the lived experiences of others - to affirm that each person is worthy, valuable and belongs - to live our lives according to the spiritual wisdom found within our faith traditions.
Whether in the Jewish affirmation that that each person is created B’Tzelem Elohim (in the sacred image of God). Or found in the words of a Hindu poet who uses the ideas of ahimsa (non-harming) and satya (truth) to eloquently say “A true Vaishnava (Hindu) is the one who feels the pain of others.” Sikhs believe in the equality of people as sons and daughters of Waheguru, the Almighty - respect for human dignity gives meaning and purpose to our beliefs. Living true to faith, Muslims find motivation in the words of the Prophet who condemned racism in his last Sermon on Mount Arafat in 632 AD and said “a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white – We must strive together for equality and justice for all.” In the same way, Christians are called to ‘love one another as God has loved us” and to “love our neighbour as our self.”
Ending racism is at the core of spirituality.
As University of Saskatchewan Faith Leaders, we affirm and rejoice in the rich abundance of gifts within our campus community. The diverse thought, deep spirituality, cultural wisdom, creative ideas and active care we experience from students, faculty and staff every day give us hope for peace, healing and reconciliation. But that hope must move us all to action.
For our part, we will continue to encourage informed, respectful and compassionate conversation - we will strive for justice for all and add our voices to those who “speak truth to power” - we will foster friendships between people and support the safety and wellness of the University of Saskatchewan community and beyond.
If you need support, please reach out to us directly. We also encourage you to access supports from our caring and skilled colleagues at Student Affairs and Outreach, the Student Wellness Centre, the International Student and Study Abroad Centre, and the Aboriginal Students’ Centre.