The Christian Reformed Church is calling for prayer after two black men were shot and killed by police officers in two separate incidents this week.
The CRC is also asking congregations to pray after five Dallas, Texas police officers were killed, and seven officers were wounded, on Thursday night.
In that situation, snipers opened fire on police after a peaceful protest, held to draw attention to the two black men who had been killed by police, was drawing to a close.
Alton Sterling, 32, was killed by police early Tuesday in a confrontation outside of a convenience store in Baton Rouge, La. Meanwhile, Philando Castile, 37, was killed Wednesday night by Minnesota police after they stopped his vehicle for having a bad tail light.
"As we grieve the killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, we proclaim firmly that their lives matter to God, and their deaths were a violation of justice. And we also grieve the tragic deaths of the Dallas police officers, who died protecting and serving the community with honor," said Colin Watson, the CRC’s director of ministries and administration.
"These tragedies do not force us to choose who is 'us' and who is 'them'; in the church, we are one community,” said Watson. “We weep together, we honor one another's perspectives, we listen and lament as one body. I believe we can talk about systemic racism and gun violence while also honoring the immense and indiscriminate grief that these incidents have caused. May our churches together proclaim the importance of this moment, and commit themselves to a more just world."
The CRC Office of Social Justice has created a summary and suggested prayer related to the incidents. The resource is intended for those who are struggling to know what to say, and how to say it. Especially if people would like to address the shootings in services this weekend, they can visit this site, which provides prayers, litanies and suggested worship materials.
"It is the call of the church to lament,” states Kate Kooyman, coordinator of Restorative Justice for the Office of Social Justice. “Our sanctuaries are the right places to grieve, to struggle, and to seek peace.”
“I hope that all our congregations say the names of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling this Sunday. I hope they pray for the families of the Dallas police officers who were killed. I hope, too, that we will be unafraid to consider the deep injustices that these killings expose, and to discern each of our roles in not just healing this broken system, but changing it as well. The dehumanizing of ‘the other’ begins with each of us — we must work to see and honor the image of God in one another.”