The Pilgrim Center for Reconciliation recently hosted a panel discussion with social justice advocates and faith leaders in Minneapolis, MN on the topic of reconciliation. The conversation centered around race, community policing and ideas on how to engage across lines of difference. A common denominator amongst all the speakers was the transformative power of the Word of God; panelists shared how their faith led them to justice work and how God continues to work through them to tackle complicated, historical, deeply divisive social issues like racism, prejudice and police brutality.
Shvonne Johnson, an educator and organizer in Minneapolis spoke about truth telling as a means of liberation. As a poet and writer, she reflected on how storytelling can be used to connect people, while still sharing the harsher truths of history. Only when we confront these truths and repent can we work to ensure that history stops repeating itself. Johnson expressed the need for us to talk about the things we don’t want to talk about in order to better educate, inform and reconcile with our history, as well as, understand our present-day issues.
One of the main themes examined during the event was the importance of building strong relationships in order to combat difference and hate. Melanie Leehy, a Council Member of Falcon Heights, MN and Co-Chair of the city’s Task Force on Inclusion and Policing stressed the need to bring people together who may not otherwise speak to one another. She shared her experiences as a Black woman engaging with primarily white audiences on the topics of race and community. She mentioned the significance of removing shame, guilt and labels in order to connect to each other. In the same way that Jesus removed labels from those he surrounded himself with, we are also called to remove labels from others and not assign judgements to their experiences.