Standing up for Social Justice in Ferguson, MO

Arrested to Highlight Sins of Justice System

Written by Natalie Beglen

Interview with Rev. Emily Heitzman, member of Chicago Presbytery

love justice ferguson arrestHow far would you go to bring attention to social issues? Would you stand in the pouring freezing rain for hours? Would you be willing to be arrested and finger printed? Are you tough enough to endure being wet, cold, and hungry for hours for a cause and be bold and strong enough to sing hymns, pray, and march to stay warm while confined to a cell in the county jail?

On Monday October 13, Rev. Emily Heitzman, was “one of hundreds to march and one of about 50 (most of whom were seminarians and clergy of different faiths) who was arrested at the Ferguson Police Department in Ferguson, MO for ironically ‘disturbing the peace’ while peacefully protesting the ‘justice’ system that allows for racial policing and brutality which has led to the death of Michael Brown, Vonderrick Myers, and so many other children of God.”

Rev. Heitzman, who lived in St. Louis for four years in the early 2000’s, said she and other clergy were invited to this peaceful protest by Jim Wallis and Dr. Cornel West, both authors, professors and public speakers. Emily commented, “As a youth pastor who has heard too many stories of youth’s experiences of racial profiling by Chicago police; as one who deeply cares for the young people of St. Louis, Chicago, and the rest of this world; as a leader and member of the faith community – who has been called to follow the Way of Jesus, who risked much while calling out systemic injustice and radically proclaiming that no human lives are more worthy than others; and as a member of the human race; I felt called to go to Ferguson and was willing to be arrested.”

What can you do?

  • Emily commented that “we seem to participate easily in service projects; yet it’s harder for us all to participate in social justice projects”. Ask yourself why.
  • “Clergy, people of faith, and members of the human race cannot stand for this and must boldly speak out until this injustice ends.” Emily encourages us to have these tough conversations and give those who may have experienced racial inequality a voice and platform (i.e. pulpit) to speak and also lead.
  • It’s important we all recognize that Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, MO was not an isolated incident. We must talk openly and honestly about racial issues and diversity in our youth groups, small groups, session meetings as well as at our assembly meetings or other workshops. Churches should look to partner with their local community organizations and work together on social justices and dig deep into the issues. We must … because ALL of God’s children are human and deserve life.

Read Emily’s blog on this event.

This article was originally published on the cover of the November 2014 Our Common Ministry, the presbytery’s newsletter. Download the complete issue.

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