Leaders of the U.S. Bishops’ conference (USCCB) have denounced an increase in “incidents of bullying and verbal and physical assaults, particularly against Americans of Asian and Pacific Island heritage” allegedly brought on by the Chinese Coronavirus pandemic.
In a May 5 communiqué, the bishops declare that reports of incidents of racism and xenophobia have increased in “the midst of fear and anxiety being fueled by the COVID-19 virus,” a disease that originated in Wuhan, China.
“While a high percentage of Asian Americans work in the health care sector risking their own health to save lives, some have experienced rejection and requests to be treated ‘by someone else,’” the statement reads. “Way before state and local ordinances brought to a halt almost every economic sector in the country, communities across the country, from Oakland, California to New York City, reported a sharp decline in the patronage for businesses owned and 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,” the bishops say.
“As Catholic bishops, we find these actions absolutely unacceptable,” they observe. “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 go on to say that their hearts go out to “all those who have been victims of these vile displays of racism and xenophobia,” which serve as 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.”
The bishops also warn that resurgent xenophobia in the United States could lead to “a normalization of violence and abuse” reminiscent of the nation’s “long history” of xenophobia and racism
“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 state.
“While we continue to pray fervently for an end to the pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus, we call for a firm rejection of racial categorizations or presumptions, racially based verbal assaults or slurs, and for an end to all forms of violence,” they declare.
The communiqué is signed by Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee for Cultural Diversity in the Church, Bishop Oscar A. Solis, chairman of the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Island Affairs, and Bishop Shelton Fabre, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism.