AMID the surge in racial violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) across the United States, Los Angeles Catholic leaders held an outdoor candlelight prayer vigil in solidarity with the affected communities.
LA Archbishop José H. Gomez on Wednesday, March 31, reminded attendees that Asian American families belong to the oldest communities that arrived in the country.
“The first families from the Philippines arrived here in California, at Morro Bay, nearly 450 years ago, in 1587,” he said during the prayer vigil held at the Incarnation Parish Church in Glendale, California.
“If you think about it, Asians were here, working and worshipping, 33 years before the Pilgrims arrived on the Mayflower on the other side of the country. It is very sad that these relatives, neighbors and parishioners of ours are facing violence and discrimination in recent months, not only here in California, but in other parts of the country as well,” he added.
Gomez also urged Catholics to pray for a renewed spirit of fraternity in the society, reminding everyone that they are all part of the family of God.
“We pray for a new spirit of fraternity in our society, that we may all come to see one another as brothers and sisters. We are all children of God, who loves us and created each of us in his own image to live in equality and with dignity as one family of God,” he said.
For his part, Auxiliary Bishop Alejandro “Alex” Aclan – who became the second Filipino American priest named bishop in the U.S. – echoed Gomez’s sentiment during his homily.
“We gather tonight to enter our Lord Jesus Christ so we can ask him for his help so we can overcome the racism we are living in at this time,” he said.
Aclan highlighted the contributions of AAPI professionals to the U.S. economy, noting that countless of them are professionals in the healthcare field and culinary businesses.
He also called the faithful to action, including educating themselves, participating in activities that foster community, dialogue and reconciliation with people from different races and to form the conscience of the young so they can learn to respect each other’s dignity.
Among the attendees of the prayer vigil were Auxiliary Bishop Marc Trudeau for the San Pedro Pastoral Region, Fr. Rodel Balagtas, Incarnation’s pastor, who delivered introduction remarks, and more than a dozen priests from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, mostly of Asian American descent.
Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition that tracks anti-Asian American discrimination, reported that from March 19, 2020 to February 28, 2021, it has received 3,795 firsthand incidents of racism and discrimination from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Over 500 incidents occurred in the first two months of 2021.