There are cities and towns whose names, previously not known to many, will for many years be identified with one tragic, violent event. Newtown, Connecticut is one of these. As of August 9, 2014, Ferguson, Missouri, is another. There are conflicting accounts about the encounter between Michael Brown, the 18 year old black man, and Darren Wilson, the white police officer who killed him. Both peaceful protests by hundreds and lootings by a few occurred for days after the shooting. A curfew was incurred then lifted. Police released a video of a young man looking like Brown seemingly shoplifting cigars at a store several blocks from where the shooting occurred, fanning angry reactions. (Although not connected to the shooting, another store video shows the man at the cash register paying for the cigars.) There have been violent clashes between police and angry protesters. Recently, support for the officer has increased, with supporters raising at least $25,000 for a support fund. The National Guard has been called in to maintain order.
Members of the FAN staff have reflected on how to respond. Although there is still confusion about details of what happened, several things are clear. Michael Brown was unarmed. He was walking away from the officer when he was shot. The town of Ferguson is 67% black with a police force that is 94% white. We believe that the black community has a right to be angry and to protest. That anger needs to be channeled into demands for justice, condemnation of police militarized actions, and major changes within the police force, but not give way to retaliatory violence. President Obama’s call for healing was issued too soon. First, justice must be promised and enacted; then a process of reconciliation and healing can begin. Michael Brown’s mother stated: “Justice will bring peace, I believe.” So do we.
We pray for all involved in this tragic shooting. First we pray for the family and friends of Michael Brown and for all victims of racial profiling and police violence. We pray also for Officer Collins who has to live with the consequences of his action of killing an unarmed teenager, and for members of the police force that they may seriously examine their attitudes, and change their policies and practices for the good of all the residents of Ferguson whatever their color or race. We pray for the town of Ferguson and the state of Missouri. And because the tragedy in Ferguson is not an isolated happening in one town in the United States, we pray for all the United States that we may end racial profiling, racial injustice, and violence of all kinds. “If you want peace, work for justice.” (Pope Paul VI). “Justice will bring peace, I believe.” (Michael Brown’s mother)