ATLANTA, July 8, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- In view of this week's fatal acts of violence between police officers and American citizens Alton Sterling (Baton Rouge, LA) and Philando Castile (Falcon Heights, MN), Bishop Joseph W. Walker, III and the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International offer their deepest sympathies to the families and communities affected by the sudden ending of the lives of Mr. Sterling and Mr. Castile.
We, as a body, are saddened and deeply troubled by the repeated violent acts committed on our American soil resulting in the deaths of men and women of color at the hands of law enforcement officials. While our prayers are certainly with all of those who've experienced these losses, we are convinced that prayer alone is, in essence, the reliance of faith while dismissing a key factor that proves the efficacy of our faith: actions that align with our unfailing belief. The bible states that "pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble..." (James 1:27 NKJV). Because of senseless acts of this nature, many of our sons and daughters have left widows, widowers, parents and children of their own to fend for themselves and perpetually mourn their lives, abruptly shortened by tragic violence. One of the most effective ways to care for this contemporary, untimely, and sadly growing sect of widows and orphans is to work to institute change that ensures an end to cases such as these, which end in avoidable and horrific deaths, leaving a grieving local and cultural community while a seemingly silent or at best, a hushed larger population carries on with their daily affairs, unaffected.
But the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International body has opted not to be silent or immobile. While the continual performance of the same plots with varied character names that is our current national state of affairs lends us plenty of reason for frustration and exhaustion - we are anything but apathetic and will continue to stand for righteous behavior in our government, the agencies which serve to uphold the laws of this country, as well the constituents that this government has been purposed to serve.
Full Gospel is mobilizing its members to vote to change federal law on the "use of deadly force" by law enforcement officials. The unabridged license to kill African American men, women and children must end! We, through our newly-instituted initiative will mobilize our community to vote on this and other issues of social & moral justice.
To this end, it is our position that the preponderance of incidences involving use of deadly force by some law enforcement officials indicates that we, as a nation, will continue to be in a state of perpetual collective loss until justice prevails in cases of this nature. The men and women who protect and serve our country as well as our local communities do so under an oath - and there are officials who adhere to this oath both dutifully and to the sacrifice of their own safety and in many cases, their lives! They are to be commended and celebrated. But the brandishing of a badge does not give carte blanche authority to those who have not adhered to the oath they took - they have wrongly attributed guilt and threat to men and women who were often unarmed and defenseless, describing them with animalistic qualities and enacting the death penalty before given an opportunity to have a single day in a court of law. These individuals must face the arm and fair judgment of justice.
Justice must be realized in the form of charges and convictions of perpetrators in these cases, stricter legislation that will circumvent loopholes enabling the acquittals of perpetrators and dismissals of cases, and accountability and auditing of law enforcement agencies (including dismissals, as necessary) and training of law enforcement officials that will supersede any secret fraternity and/or boys and girls club that would seek to systemically prize the deaths of our men and women while holding their lives as any and everything less than invaluable and priceless, deserving of the opportunity to live life into a rich, old age.
And, yes, justice must also be served for those who criminally retaliate and respond in rage and hatred toward anyone, including valiant police officers. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated: "Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars...Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
We must all work together, law enforcement and law-abiding citizens, to create dialogue and environments for peaceful gatherings and conversations that fuel love and solutions for our communities. Inflicting pain on and attributing blame to entire organizations of public servants or private citizens only serves to foster the divisiveness with which our nation is fraught. Violence in response to violence - taking lives in honor of taken lives fuels just that: more violence and more horrific deaths. We must aggressively, peacefully, and strategically move toward social change.
Daniel 2:21 says this of God and of social change:
"And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding."
Daniel 2:21 NKJV
In the context of the life of the biblical prophet, Daniel, and in today's context, God used (and we believe He still uses) people to institute a changing of seasons that outlives the present generation. This chapter and season of American history has lingered for far too long! The onus rests upon us as a body of Christians and as citizens of this country to be instruments of true, realized social justice and change. Our college of leaders and constituents certainly consists of many nationalities and ethnicities, but for some 23 years, we lead and have been led by African American clergymen and women and we feel the unburdened call to serve African American communities both spiritually and practically.
In the case of African Americans, the price paid by us from slavery to the Civil Rights movement and beyond appears to have been yielded, in many instances, in the form of a post-dated check. Our position is that we as a culture and people cannot "layaway" justice or the pursuit of happiness and equality any longer, leaving compounded work and repercussions for our sons and daughters and the generations that will follow them. Each of us must do our own part in ensuring and securing true freedom and justice for ourselves and for our nation. It is an afore gone, false conclusion that all American citizens, regardless of gender and ethnicity, have the same opportunities for the realization and enjoyment of life, liberty and the American Dream. Not true. While life is not easy for any one person on our planet, the playing field must be leveled by staying the hands and strong arms of those who have willingly, unconsciously, subconsciously, and/or quite knowingly participated in preventing entire segments of people from enjoying the freedoms this country should offer each of its citizens.
While many are saying that based upon today's social climate, there are police officers and entire law enforcement agencies that have been trained with a "shoot to kill" mantra concerning people of color, we choose not to shoot back in the same way. We opt, rather, to combat senseless violence with education, awareness, and active participation in the electoral, legislative and judicial processes. We will optimize our right to employ freedom of speech and voice our concerns, in social settings and more importantly at the polls, in the ears of our legislators, and with our finances, supporting those entities that truly support the advancement of the people in our communities.
We are building our communities from within while engaging governmental powers that be in the fortification of all of the subsets of our nation, both majority and minority, until we are one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
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SOURCE Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International