One Church Many Cultures The Good News of Cultural Diversity Newsletter Fall/Winter 2021 

Asian and Pacific Islanders 

Harmony Through Healing and Reconciliation

By: Fr. Linh Hoang, OFM, Ph.D., Siena College

The global community is still dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. It continues to make people frustrated, exhausted, and fearful not only of the disease but also of one another. Everybody hopes to return to a time when COVID19 did not hold everyone captive. Before hope is realized, though, one must confront difficult issues that surfaced in the pandemic.

A major concern for the Asian and Pacific Island (API) Catholic communities, is the dramatic increase in attacks against Asians during these past couple of years.  The website “Stop AAPI Hate,” a clearinghouse for documenting the rise in hate-filled attacks and crimes against Asians, saw a 150% increase in reported incidents as a result of Asians being blamed for COVID19. Videos of unprovoked assaults on elder AAPIs, arson at a Chinese Catholic church, random attacks, literally, thousands of racist and violent incidents both in-person and online are disturbing. Some of these racist incidents have tragically ended lives and wounded deeply the families of the victims.

These hate-filled attacks have galvanized the API communities to stand up against the hatred. The API communities have organized prayer vigils, peaceful rallies, and letter-writing campaigns to government leaders in order to bring an end to these hate attacks. Also, it has brought forth a central value for the API communities: harmony. 

Harmony starts with relationships that build toward unity. The vision of harmony is striving towards communion with God. It is worked out by each individual person with all of creation.  The work of harmony recognizes that differences and pains between people must now be brought into mutual interaction. Through this interaction, the hard work of healing and reconciling can occur.

Healing starts with recognizing the harm and wrong that have been done. It works toward relieving the pain and correcting the wrongs. Then reconciliation can occur. Christians know that they must repent of their sins. God always welcomes back the sinner who asks forgiveness. This return establishes again a renewed relationship.  Reconciliation is both personal and communal. The community needs to recognize its own sins and work towards healing.  In reconciliation, the community and individual experience a correction and overcome the rupture in the relationship. This is a process of healing and reconciliation where harmony is crucial for APIs in their faith journey.  In addition, many API Catholics do this in a very concrete way—starting at home.

Many API Catholics erect shrines and altars in their homes to remember their ancestors, venerate their favorite saints, and to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary. The shrines will usually include a statue of Mary, a Crucifix, candles, and pictures of their beloved dead. The Church’s remembrance of the saints supports this practice of prayer for the saints and ancestors.  These shrines become a concrete place of solace, prayer, and ritual. These shrines materialize the representation of harmony where the living and the dead gather to ask for healing and reconciliation with one another and with God.