Notre Dame community gathers in support of unity and racial justice

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The Notre Dame community gathered Monday evening to pray for unity and racial justice in the United States.

Organized by the Office of the President and by Campus Ministry, the “Prayer for Unity, Walk for Justice” event on Notre Dame’s Library Quad came following the death of George Floyd and subsequent peaceful and violent protests in Minneapolis and many other cities and towns nationwide.

According to a press release, there were 1,000 attendees on campus and more online.

University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins remembered the deaths of Emmett Till, Medgar Evers and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as those of more recent times, such as Eric Garner to Breonna Taylor to the congregants of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

“We gather tonight not just to reflect on police violence against a single man in Minneapolis,” Father Jenkins said, “but on a legacy of violence, often conducted with impunity, against black men in our nation. We confront the heavy burden of a legacy of racism.”

Father Jenkins said he found it difficult to find the right words.

“If it were only a matter of a bad police officer, and bad police tactics in Minneapolis, we might know how to respond,” he said. “These were present in Mr. Floyd’s case, but to focus only on those facts is to miss the point, to miss the reason for the outrage. The challenge is deeper, more enduring, more tragic and more daunting. It is difficult to find words adequate to respond to that challenge. I will say this. To black colleagues, students and friends: I am so sorry for the pain you are suffering. Several of you told me you wept when you saw the terrible video from Minneapolis. No doubt there has been a mixture of sadness, rage and despair as these killings go on. We are all responsible for combating the legacy of racism, but its burden falls on you. You no doubt have felt the weight of that burden intensely in the past week. I am sorry.”

Father Jenkins also stated that we needed an outcry but that “the violence, the burning, the shooting will not serve the cause of justice. It will only perpetuate the violence.” And that the message, “is not only that we should not allow violence into protests, but we should not allow violence and hatred into our hearts. We should be angry, but we should not let the hatred that leads to violence take hold in our hearts. It not only destroys us, but makes us less effective in serving our cause.”

The president concluded by saying, “Let us pray for Mr. Floyd. Let us pray for his grieving family and friends. Let us pray for our black colleagues and friends. Let us pray for an awakening in the hearts of those of us who are white to demand an end to the legacy of racial violence. Let us pray for our nation.”

Following the event on the Library Quad, Father Jenkins and Notre Dame Police Department Chief Keri Kei Shibata led participants on a walk for justice from Main Quad to the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes to leave candles and pray individually for unity and justice.

Participants in the service were asked to abide by social distancing guidelines and wear masks as part of Norte Dame’s commitment to health and safety in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

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