It’s an unfortunate reality that the time of the week when ethnic or racial groups are most separated from each other is Sunday morning. One hundred years ago, in 1921, a Congregational Church in Washington, D.C. challenged these divisions. This effort brought to bear the First Race Amity celebration when thousands of people joined some senators, congressmen, business leaders, military officials and professors who were courageous enough to sit shoulder to shoulder with others of different races to learn about the oneness of all humankind.
So what exactly is Race Amity Day? The word amity implies friendship or harmony. The purpose of Race Amity Day is to recognize the growing diversity of America’s citizens and encourage friendship and respect among all people. Over the past year, Church groups in Boston’s MetroWest communities began a series of reflections regarding faith and race equity. In addition to Scripture and Church teaching, participants read and discussed current authors who helped shine a light of truth on our own biases and tendencies to perpetuate unjust systems and disunity.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus’ prayer: “that they all may be one” remains our prayer today. (John 17:21) When Jesus was ministering to the community in war-ravaged Palestine, he made prayer the central part of his life. The Race Amity Interfaith Prayer Vigil that took place on Sunday, June 13th was about overcoming the racial separation that characterizes so much of our lives (including our faith experiences). Praying together is the most important way to sustain this effort.
At the Prayer Vigil, Muslim, Baha’i, Hindu, Jewish, Catholic and Protestant speakers celebrated our common destiny with courageous prayer and song. The call to friendship and unity is divine, and on that evening, John 17:21 was certainly alive and well!
Colm Is a Deacon in the Archdiocese of Boston and a prison Chaplain. He and his wife Julie have 4 adult children and 2 grandchildren. His Catholic faith has always been a central part of his family and work life and is a source of endless joy.