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Moving forward together

By Jessica Connor

One case does not a nation make. And as we move forward in the weeks following the acquittal of neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, we would do well to remember that.

Emotions are running high right now as many people across South Carolina desperately lament the acquittal. Daily as I scan the news, I hear terms like white privilege  bandied about in an attempt to explain why a man went free after shooting an unarmed teenager. Others are seizing the opportunity to debate gun control and whether neighborhood watch officers have too much power.

Clearly, our state “ and our nation “ is struggling to make sense of where we all stand with issues of race and justice.

But despite the jury s not guilty  verdict, and despite our need to use this case to voice our understandable frustrations about race, gun control and other heated and extremely important issues, we need to remember this jury was determining a man s guilt based solely on the facts presented in the case.

It doesn t mean America doesn t care about race. It doesn t mean America doesn t care about gun control. It just means that a single jury didn t feel it had the evidence to convict. My deep prayers are with young Trayvon s family as they struggle to comprehend this, and for all the families involved. May God be with them.

But we can use the passions stirred by the Zimmerman case as an opportunity for Christian dialogue on unity, peace and compassion.

In a joint statement from The United Methodist Church s General Commission on Religion and Race, Interim General Secretary Bishop Linda Lee and GCORR Board President Bishop Minerva Carcaño issued a statement that cites some atrocious statistics: That, according to the Bureau of Justice, blacks are 1.7 times as likely as whites to be victims of violent crimes and more than twice as likely to be victims of aggravated assault; that the imprisonment rate for black males is more than six times higher than that of white males; that the homicide victimization rate for blacks is equally six times higher than the rate for whites.

This is unacceptable and raises some alarming questions.

We would do well to heed the words of Lee and Carcaño: The death of Trayvon Martin, the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the admitted use of the ˜N word by TV chef Paula Deen and the ongoing disproportionate unemployment and incarceration of and violence against young African-American and Latino men make it more important than ever for people of faith to model ways different from the world s way of division and violence. 

God bless us as we move forward together to end violence, hatred and racial strife and work for a more peaceful Christian Kingdom on earth.

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