CNA Staff, May 6, 2020 / 04:54 pm (CNA).- Leaders of the U.S. bishops’ conference have denounced acts of racial prejudice against Asian Americans as the world continues battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our hearts go out to all those who have been victims of these vile displays of racism and xenophobia,” said a May 5 statement by Archbishop Nelson Pérez of Philadelphia, chair of the bishops’ Committee for Cultural Diversity in the Church; Bishop Oscar Solis of Salt Lake City, head of the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Island Affairs; and Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, chair of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism.

“These dreadful occurrences are a reminder that, in an environment of increased anxiety and fear, racial profiling and discrimination continue to negatively impact the lives of certain populations, adding to the pain and suffering already caused by the pandemic,” they said.

The bishops said that the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in Wuhan, China, has prompted acts of charity and courage, but has also led to tension, impacting social interactions and racial perceptions.

“The pandemic resulting from the new coronavirus continues to sweep across the world, impacting our everyday behavior, practices, perceptions, and the way we interact with one another,” they said.

“We are also alarmed to note the increase in reported incidents of bullying and verbal and physical assaults, particularly against Americans of Asian and Pacific Island heritage.”

As examples, the bishops pointed to a significant percentage of Asian Americans who work in health care, risking their lives to do so. In some cases, they said, these people have experienced rejection as patients request to be treated by health practitioners of a different race. They also noted some large cities, prior to the economic shutdown, saw a sharp decrease in patronage toward business operated by Asian Americans.

“These are only a few painful examples of the continuing harassment and racial discrimination suffered by people of Asian and Pacific Islanders and others in our country,” they said.

“As Catholic bishops, we find these actions absolutely unacceptable. We call on Catholics, fellow Christians and all people of good will to help stop all racially motivated discriminatory actions and attitudes, for they are attacks against human life and dignity and are contrary to Gospel values.”

The bishops pointed to the 2018 pastoral letter Open Wide Our Hearts, which condemns racism as a failure to acknowledge others as children of God.

In their May 5 statement, Archbishop Pérez, Bishop Solis, and Bishop Fabre warned that given the United States’ history of racial prejudice, if the current acts of unjust discrimination are uncontested, it could lead to “normalization of violence and abuse against particular groups.”

“It would be a tragedy for the United States to repeat this history or for any American to act as if it is appropriate to do so,” they said.

In response to the recent incidents of racism throughout the country, the bishops urged Americans to reject racial categorizations, verbal assaults, and all forms of violence. They also challenged elected officials and public institutions to promote peace.

“We encourage all individuals, families and congregations to assist in promoting a greater appreciation and understanding of the authentic human values and cultural contributions brought by each racial heritage in our country,” they added.

The bishops voiced their hope that the pandemic will become an opportunity for Americans to build solidarity by embracing acts of harmony and compassion, contributing to a stronger and more unified country.

“The reality of the times and all the suffering caused by this pandemic call for a stronger resolve towards unity, demonstrated through acts of solidarity, kindness and love toward one another, so that we can emerge from this crisis renewed and stronger as one American people; a people that places value in every human life, regardless of race, ethnic origin, gender or religious affiliation,” they said.

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