Community members mourn the rising violence against Asian Americans (Photo Credit: Joe Lamberti/Camden Courier-Post via AP)

Asian American Churches Plan Acts Beyond Prayer for Healing

By Luis Andres Henao, Jessie Wardarski and Mariam Fam

Asian American Christian leaders said Thursday their congregations are saddened and outraged after a white gunman killed eight people—most of them women of Asian descent—at three Atlanta-area massage parlors. And they’re calling for action beyond prayers.

Asian Americans were already rattled by a wave of racist attacks amid the spread of the coronavirus pandemic across the United States. While the motive behind Tuesday’s rampage remains under investigation, some see it as a wake-up call to stand up against a rise in violence against the community.

The lead pastor at Korean Central Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, located a few miles from two of the spas that were targeted, said he will ask congregants during his Sunday sermon to “not just pray, not just worry,” because “it’s time for us to act.”

“I’m going to urge people with love and peace that we need to step up and address this issue, so that […] our next generation should not be involved in tragic […] violence,” the Rev. Byeong Han said. “That’s what Christians need to do.”

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry says diplomats in Atlanta have confirmed with police that four of the dead were women of Korean descent, and are working to determine their nationality.

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Roula AbiSamra, center, and Chelsey, right, lay flowers bouquets at a makeshift memorial (Photo Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Jane Yoon, a congregant at Korean Central Presbyterian and a 17-year-old high school junior in nearby Marietta, said she increasingly worries for her family, which is of Korean descent, and was shocked by the killings.

“I was definitely very outraged,” she said. “I was in shock at first of the news and just also how close it is to my community.”

It also hit home on a very personal level: Last week, she said, she was in a car accident and another driver punched her in the face and body before she was able to call 911. Yoon said the woman, who was arrested, did not make any racist comments during the assault, but she couldn’t help but think about rising attacks against Asian Americans.

Following that incident, she has been getting spiritual guidance and counseling from the congregation.

In the Atlanta suburb of Roswell, the Rev. Jong Kim of Grace Korean Presbyterian Church said he found a glimmer of hope in the wake of the killings after a woman reached out to donate $100 to his church “to express her feelings of sorrow to the Asian community.”

Kim spoke to several other Korean pastors in the area Thursday, and they now plan to join the group Asian Americans Advancing Justice, through which they hope to have discussions about issues of race and ethnicity and provide funeral service assistance for the victims’ families.

The Atlanta chapter of Asian Americans Advancing Justice has said that while details of the shooting are still emerging, “the broader context cannot be ignored.” The attacks, it said, “happened under the trauma of increasing violence against Asian Americans nationwide, fueled by white supremacy and systemic racism.”

Ripples from the killings have been felt well beyond Atlanta.

In Chicago, Garden City Covenant Church invited Asian Americans “in need of a community who understands your pain” to join an online meeting in which they could “share, listen, lament, and pray” together.

“There were a lot of tears, and there were a lot of questions, and for many I think there is a sense also of helplessness,” said Gabriel J. Catanus, the lead pastor, who is Filipino American. The church’s diverse congregation includes about 60 percent Filipino Americans, he said, along with worshippers from Latino and other communities.

“It’s an important Biblical practice, and Christian practice, to come before God honestly and to pour one’s own heart out before God,” he said. “God can handle even the rage and the devastation that comes out of us at times.”

Mallory Rahman and her daughter Zara Rahman, 4, bring flowers to the Gold Spa massage parlor (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ben Gray)

Catanus said he was glad to see that people are now “more awakened” to the experiences of Asian Americans. But he said much works remains to be done in faith communities and called on religious leaders to denounce anti-Asian racism from their pulpits.

“In the Christian community and in our Christian institutions, specifically, we need to confess that we have in many ways failed to lead and to teach our people,” he said. “Our discipleship has failed in many ways to address these very powerful forces that have led to violence and death.”

Kevin Park, an associate pastor at Korean Central Presbyterian Church, said not only Asian Americans but the whole country needs to speak out against the violence, racism, and “more subtle marginalization” that have been suffered for generations.

“There’s opportunities among faith communities that we need to stand up together and reach out to communities that are hurting, not only Asian American communities but other communities of color,” he said.

“And I think there needs to be kind of this movement toward solidarity[.] We’re all in this together.”

Luis Andres Henao, Mariam Fam, and Jessie Wardarski are reporters with the Associated Press

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26 thoughts on “Asian American Churches Plan Acts Beyond Prayer for Healing”

  1. This is a disingenuous article. White supremacists are not killing or harming Asian Americans as a result of the pandemic; in fact, crime against Asian Americans is not on the rise, statistically and the perpetrators of crime agains Asian Americans are by and large races other than white. Look up the crime statistics for 2020 in the FBI registry and the NAPD website. Please be more responsible than to take up cudgel of the progressive left without any actual facts to back up your article.

      1. Agree. The problem is that for a large part of society, they view everything as racial. A shooting? Must be race-motivated, even when the shooter said it wasn’t. We must view people as God does:

        1 Samuel 16:7

        But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

        Dividing people into categories based on the amount of melanin in our skin is a completely man-made idea. We should not hate anyone, for hate beings judgement just as murder does (Matthew 5:22).

    1. It’s really sad that the responses to a Christian blog on supporting and praying for our hurting Asian-American brothers and sisters is to tell them “you shouldn’t be hurt!”
      I will be in prayer for us all. Jesus, come quickly.

      1. As an Asian American Christian I am also sad that this is the only comment that grieves with us. Thank you for being a friend.

  2. Bruce, Jeff… are either of you Asian? If not, please don’t speak for the Asian race! Unfortunately, racism and hatred is not always a crime that ends up in a statistic.

    There is an undeniable increase in discrimination and yes, racism/hatred, against Asians!! It’s the same people that were racist before but now they have “good reasons” to be displaying it. Instead of talking/writing just pay attention to what’s going on around you and have an open mind to possibly not knowing everything and learning if not speaking up against it! I am Caucasian married to an Asian with a biracial child and see things through clearer lenses.

    1. Thank you, Felicia. My former college roommate – and friend of over 2 decades – is a Korean American. Our friendship was built off of us getting to know our respective cultures: before being matched as roommates, I had never really interacted much with Asians, and same for her with Black people. We had a great year asking one another the hard questions, making (now-hilarious) slips of the tongue, and introducing one another to our respective foods, celebrations, and families.
      I was elated when she came to Christ just over 7 years ago.
      I reached out to see how she and her family have been doing – and I texted her a link to this article. Her response to the comments: “Not the compassion I’d expect, but at least I know who to add to my prayer list.”
      Her grace amidst such careless dismissive responses to the hurt she feels inspires me.
      It is NOT for us to tell others how they should feel based on OUR opinions or politics…but for us to encourage and pray for them thru it.

    2. I am not speaking for the Asian race. I am speaking to facts. Look at the two resources I quote. Then dismiss the arguments. Race is the first point of arrival for any tragedy in our culture – this is just another example of the truth being twisted to fit a leftist narrative. Or are you willing to ignore the actual statements made by the perpetrator and confirmed by the police? that might be convenient but it is has no bearing on looking through this situation through the lens of truth.

      1. My point is, WHY is your first reply to reading about praying and walking alongside a grieving community SO angry and politicized? You are literally like “here’s WHY they shouldn’t be hurt….it’s all the LEFT!”

        I didn’t think that agreeing to pray for and with the hurting Asian-American Christian community is “leftist”. I thought it was CHRISTIAN.

      2. Gordon Hackman

        Gonna have to agree with M H. Your comment is completely tone deaf and knee-jerk defensively political. Try laying the politics aside for awhile and just be a human being.

        Also, the fact that the shooter may not have been directly motivated by racial animus doesn’t mean that racial realities had no connection to what happened. Acknowledging that doesn’t make someone a leftist.

        People on both sides of the political spectrum are too quick to rush to frame the event based on overly simplistic narratives.

      3. Statements by the perpetrator? Because someone who commits cold-blooded murder — you know, just having a “bad day” — should be credible? Why not take time to lament for such acts, be slow to speak, and intercede for communities in pain?

  3. Felicia, My point is simply this, too often when horrific things like this happen, race is generally becoming the first stop for explaining deplorable actions. But, in this case, there is no evidence that race was a prime motivation, but rather that this troubled young soul was battling his inner demon of sexual addiction. As for me needing to provide my bonafides in order to have an opinion, I think I will avoid the trap by simply assuring you of my deep love and appreciation for God’s creativity across every race and hue. I meant you or any others any disrespect, I simply feel the article too readily seeks assumes this crime to be as racially motivated, when the evidence so far doesn’t support the contention. My view. I may be wrong. Wouldn’t be the first time. Best to you and your lovely family.

  4. If these murders are not race based, and they haven’t been proven to be, why is this article about critical race theory? The murderer says it had to do with a sex addiction which indicates mental health problems. Until we know for sure it was race related shouldn’t we be talking about the too often neglected subject of mental health?

    1. I’m not sure I’d take the words of a mentally ill killer as the gospel truth, but it’s very clear that no matter what, mental illness is involved. Praying for all involved and impacted by this horrific tragedy.

  5. This was an attack on massage parlors by a man that was struggling with sexual addictions. The reason Asians were killed was because there just happens to be a larger percentage of Asians working in massage parlors than other ethnicities. This was not a race-motivated attack.

    1. Jeff, Bruce, Paul, et ot.
      There is both a hint of mental illness and racism. If the shooter wanted to cleanse his own soul, why did he not attack a strip club or porn shop? He knew that massage shops are owned and employed by Asian women who would not attack back. In the same manner, remember the Charleston church shooting in 2015 as African-American believers were killed during a Bible study. Racists like to prey on the most vulnerable. To Paul, please do not use Scripture and take it out of context. 1 Samuel 16:7 dealt with God speaking directly to Samuel.

      1. On the Other Hand

        GJ in criticism of Paul

        Are you really saying that 1 Sam 16:7 doesn’t reveal a basic truth about God, a fixed eternal truth, that He knows what’s in people’s hearts while all men of every age tend to go by outward appearance?

        You will find this same truth appearing throughout the Scripture. When Jesus knows what’s in the heart of his critics, often clerics of the day, do you think there are no implications in Scripture that Jesus also can see into the hearts and thoughts of everyone, even now from heaven?

        Your hermeneutic is much too narrow. Following it to its logical conclusion, we’d have to say that there is no guarantee that one could be reconciled to God today through faith in Christ because the Scripture stories and epistles only address the audience at that time. Correct interpretation, but not so strong application.

        Maybe this is not quite what you meant. But it sounds like it.

      2. I think it’s possible to be grieved over racism and its effect on people even if racism was not the key motivating factor in violence done to another. For example, here in Kenosha there is disagreement if racism was a factor (or not at all) in the shooting of Jacob Blake by Officer Shesken but that doesn’t mean we can’t be grieved by the effects of racism in our community or the very genuine pain in some of neighbors hearts about it. And if people come to our churches upset about racism, it’s not goinger to help them to know Jesus if we say “Oh, that’s stupid, you’re upset about nothing.” How will we help them know Christ loves them if we aren’t willing to understand their heart-pain?

        These things cause hearts to hurt, and that suffering makes people more ready to hear the Gospel.

        Just imagine how many Asians will come to Christ because of this shooting or racist attacks against them. Or the riots of Kenosha? I even pray Jacob Blake and Officer Rusten Shesken come to know the Lord better than they ever have!

        I pray too much forgiveness will come out of all of this.

        While yes we can’t shout “racism!” as a sole cause we can’t ignore it either. And no secular group, no hollow “woke” philosophy can fix that sin—only The Church can, only Christ can!

        We know him and His love. Pray we be humble enough, come together to listen despite the discomfort it might cause, to listen to the pain of people’s hearts and show them not just our Father’s Truth, but our Father’s Heart! For them.

    2. Gordon Hackman

      The fact that it was not motivated by racial animus does not mean racial realities don’t intersect with what happened. Observing that doesn’t make one a leftist.

      In the past year, many Asians have experience racial hostility directed at them over the COVID pandemic, which also makes this seem all the worse, even if the two things aren’t directly connected.

      The reality is that people on both sides of the political spectrum are too quick to rush to advance and defend simplistic narratives that confirm their chosen political outlook.

    3. Very early in the news break, Local Atlanta Police officer in charge of case and an Atlanta reporter on ABC network and other local broadcasts said repeatedly that the questioning officers asked clearly if he had any racist motives and he has denied that. Only said he had sexual addictions and could not stop going to these places. (I assume he shot in places he frequented, but I did not hear that reported). Today, on local news, they police representative again stated the had no evidence of this being racially motivated. 🤷‍♀️🤷‍♀️🤷‍♀️

  6. On The Other Hand

    This is an awful tragedy, but projecting it through the lens of racism, long before any facts are known just uses the tragedy for political, critical race theory fodder. No one should buy into this baloney. It is racist.

    Remember the Navy Yard mass shooting by Aaron Alexis, a Black man, or the South Korean student, Suieng-Hui Cho shootings on Virginia Tech Campus–both with more deaths, 32 and 12 respectively, than this current shooting. Cho published a manifesto expressing hatred for Christians and Hedonists. There were no hasty charges of racism or religious bigotry in the media. In the former case, the thrust of the coverage was the problem with guns in the hands of the mentally ill. In the second, the thrust of coverage was on the need to improve campus security. Both mass shootings were blamed on the mental problems of the perpetrators, and rightly so. Media warned readers not to stereotype minorities by these events. The key point is that there was no rush to judgment.

    I have seen nothing yet about the background of this shooter Robert Long, other than he’s White, 6 of his 8 victims were “Asian,” and he was baptized twice, most recently, at a Baptist church. Let me make an educated guess at a profile: mental problems, neurotic guilt, never had a girl friend, intense hidden hatred of women, no close friends, poor social skills, sexual addiction to porn and prostitutes, sees himself as misunderstood and mistreated especially by women. He’s like the methodical serial killer taking out his psycho-sexual anger on sex workers, but operating with less focused controlled rage and lower IQ, He deludes himself that he is purging society of evil by killing sex workers. His multiple baptisms and return to church are like neurotic repetitive hand washings, a desperate acting out, a ritual of trying to get clean.

    Spiritually, I am reminded of the parable of the seed and the sower. Not every outward decision for Christ is valid or life changing. Genuine faith results in genuine fruit. Mysteriously confessions of faith don’t always stick. Throwing in mental illness creates more fog. In the end, only God knows the heart.

    The attempt to paint every evil in society, every injustice, every economic inequality, every difference in academic achievement, every minority failed aspiration, as some form of White racism is evil. It’s a lie.

    1. Hello—point taken, yes. You cannot cry “racism” for every evil done. It may not be, it may be mixed with others. Still, we must be able to listen to pain in hurting hearts if we want to sow seeds of the gospel. That’s often challenging and humbling, but God can help us.

      One thing I do know—this Robert Long, the friends/families/coworkers of the women he killed, every black person shot by an officer and the officers who did the shooting…

      They all need Jesus.
      We all need Him.

  7. Trying to make sense of psychopathy reveals more about the person doing the analysis than the psychopath.

  8. OTOH gets to the heart of the issues. Apparently he was baptised twice at the same church? The families with the stranglehold in Crabtree force a 17 year old to “come out” with tripe on “social media”? Between the ages of 8 and 17 he was doing SOME of his growing up.

    They should have given him space to go quiet and slow down (giving regard to his parents’ safety). Those families with others’ welfare in their stranglehold push the phrase “was / am saved” – whereas real assurance comes from degrees of inference. Students can’t be shown a decent “gospel” by their method.

    The sons of one of the dead women, who had brought them up on her own, and who are in his same age group, are right in declaring those Crabtree families have taught Robert “***t”.

    As for “Maverick Recovery”, Father Fitzgerald invented that wheel 60 years ago: sex addicts can’t be helped by being mixed up with substance addicts.

    Professions don’t treat mania, much. Did anyone in that congregation have any intellect? With or without pills, you don’t get a grip on your own life by going to unstable places like Crabtree etc. Shallow places make high waves.

  9. Moreover, the reifying “christians” have an ad hominem god (unlike mine). They had to “have” a specific personality – rather than ask God to guide any government into acting justly. Said personality acquiesced with their election strategy. Then those “christians” get ad hominem with everyone in each others’ families, and in the street, but have no principles.

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