LOS ANGELES (RNS) — To pastor Rosa Cándida Ramírez, it’s evident the same institutional systems that dehumanize immigrants perpetuate the mistreatment of Black Americans.
“We cannot say that immigrant lives matter, if we can’t say that Black Lives Matter,” said Ramírez, 31, who helps lead the largely Latina and immigrant La Fuente Ministries in Pasadena, California.
At La Fuente Ministries, it’s not uncommon for church members to speak about their plight and rights as immigrants. Now, Ramírez said, they’re exploring what it means to be a congregation that also talks about microaggressions, colorism and the struggles of the Black community.
La Fuente bills itself as an intergenerational, intercultural and bilingual congregation, and to Ramírez, the church cannot embody all those things and not say anything right now in support of Black Lives Matter.
Days after nationwide protests erupted condemning the police killing of George Floyd, La Fuente issued a pastoral statement affirming that Black Lives Matter and denouncing what La Fuente referred to as the “public lynching” of Floyd and the “militarization of police forces in cities.”
The statement referred to Jesus of Nazareth as a dark-skinned Palestinian Jew and announced that it’s time for the Latina church to join the African American struggle.
“We cannot remain silent because we are shaped by Jesus’ good news of liberation, dignity, compassion and justice!” the statement read. “Anything that opposes the gospel realities must be denounced as powers of death.”
Latinos, many from younger generations, have been among the different ethnic groups marching in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in protests and demonstrations across the nation. They’ve held signs declaring “Black-Brown Unity” and “Brown People for Black Liberation. “Tu lucha es mi lucha” (your fight is my fight) has been a rallying cry.
And for a number of Latino clergy and people of faith, it’s imperative this message of unity be present in their churches.
Guillermo Torres, with the Los Angeles-based Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice network, said it’s problematic if pastors aren’t addressing the inequalities youth are confronting on a day-to-day basis.
“When they’re not hearing that in the sermons, they’re feeling that disconnection and that’s kind of turning them away from traditional religion,” he said, adding that it doesn’t matter whether it’s a Catholic, evangelical or Protestant church.
While the United States is steadily becoming less Christian, Latinos are still more likely to describe themselves as Christians and to attend religious services than white Americans.
A recent Pew Research Center study found that among Latinos, 51% say they attend church more than once a month, compared with 42% of white Americans.
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