From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 06 May 1996 17:03:14

National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.
Contact: Carol J. Fouke, NCC 212-870-2252

47NCC5/6/96               FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


 NEW YORK, May 5 ---- "Stop the conspiracy of
silence" surrounding the firebombings and other
racist attacks on African American churches,
demanded the Rev. Dr. Mac Charles Jones of the
National Council of Churches (NCC) here tonight (May
5) at the first in a series of rallies to "stop the

 The rally drew 300 people to the First Baptist
Church in East Elmhurst, N.Y.  It was part of a
broad NCC-led campaign to combat the firebombings,
bring the perpetrators to justice and give moral and
financial support to the some 45 African American
and multi-racial congregations that have been
bombed, burned or defaced since January 1990 -- 10
of them in January and February 1996 alone.

 The Center for Democratic Renewal, Atlanta, a
partner in the campaign, has found a "strong
connection between church attacks and white
supremacist groups."  Most, although not all, of the
attacks have been in the rural South.

 "There is an enemy outside," declared the Rev.
Dr. Del P. Shields, Pastor of Zion Gospel Church in
Queens, N.Y., and co-host of WWRL radio's "Drive
Time Dialogue."  Commenting that "many of us didn't
even know until recently that our churches were
being burned," Dr. Shields said, "Tonight we put out
the call.  There is a God who cares.  He is not
going to forsake us, but we've got to do something
in the meantime.  Stop the burning!"

 The attacks are occurring in the context of an
America "that has refused to deal with its racism,"
Dr. Jones said in the keynote message.  The
firebombings are not isolated incidents but rather
"domestic terrorism, intimidation of whole

 To help break the isolation and fear that have
beset many firebombed churches, and to expose the
racist nature of the attacks, the NCC is sending
teams to visit "the sites where these things are
happening," Dr. Jones said.  "These communities need
to feel the presence of the national churches.  We
also want to challenge local authorities and let
them know the eyes of the nation are upon them."

 The teams will include pastors along with
representatives of the Center for Democratic
Renewal, which is the NCC-led team's investigation
arm, and the Center for Constitutional Rights, New
York, which is pursuing legal strategies to punish
those who are responsible for burning the churches.

 Additional rallies are planned for late-May in
New York City and on June 9 in Washington, D.C.  The
NCC is seeking to bring pastors from all the
firebombed churches to the nation's capital for that
rally and for meetings on June 10 with "the highest
levels of government," including the Justice
Department.  "We want the Federal Government to hold
accountable their officials who are doing these
investigations," he said.

 The NCC has established the Burned Churches
Fund (Attn. Joan Campbell, NCC General Secretary,
Room 880, 475 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10115)
to help rebuild the firebombed churches and support
the larger campaign "to be sure they aren't torched
again the next week or the week after that," Dr.
Jones said.  "These are poor churches, with little
or no insurance."

 The May 5 rally raised $2,271 in cash for the
campaign, with many participants promising to raise
additional funds.

 Dr. Jones is NCC Associate for Racial Justice
and Pastor of St. Stephen's Baptist Church in Kansas
City, Mo.  The National Council of Churches has 33
Protestant and Orthodox member denominations with a
combined membership of 52 million people.


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