As Catholics and other Americans observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year, they should renew their commitment to fighting racism, said Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington.
“Through Dr. King’s witness and the power of his echoing words, he championed the inherent God-given dignity of all persons, particularly those subjected to bigotry and prejudice,” Burbidge said in a Jan. 15 statement.
“In his courageous fight against racism and bigotry, Dr. King relied upon faith and prayer. Hope and transformative love were central to his message, as he reminded us, ‘hate is too great a burden to bear.’”
Unfortunately, the bishop said, bigotry is still prevalent today, noting that the “sin of racism continues to affect men, women and children in communities across the nation.”
The Virginia General Assembly this week discussed a resolution that would declare institutional racism to be a public health crisis in the state. It was first introduced by Delegate Lashrecse D. Aird (D-Petersburg), during a special session in August, but the topic was postponed until the regular session on Wednesday.
If passed, the resolution would permanently establish the Commission to Examine Racial Inequity in Virginia Law, expand the power of Virginia’s Department of Health’s Office of Health Equity, and launch anti-racism training for all state elected officials and employees.
Thirty states, including North Carolina, West Virginia, and Maryland, have declared racism to be a public health crisis.
Bishop Burbidge said the diocese has worked to fight racism through prayer, education, and action. He pointed to the diocese’s recent creation of an Advisory Council on Racism.
The council, he said, “works to identify how instances of racism, prejudice and bias have impacted individuals and communities in the Diocese and to develop a plan to bring about positive change in light of the Gospel and the teachings of our Faith.”
“As we work to address this evil, we must remember that what we ultimately seek is a genuine conversion of hearts that will compel change,” the bishop added.
“Together, let us pray that those harboring the burden of hate yield to the Prince of Peace, the source of salvation and love, Jesus Christ.”