The events taking place in the aftermath of the shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Mo., are among the many disturbing events happening in our country and across the globe.
My heart aches at the sight of excessive force by the police on peaceful protesters – images that hark back to the turmoil of the ’60s. I am also disheartened by people using this moment for violence and looting of community businesses. I am convinced, however, that the swell of emotion and the frustration of the people have been gathering steam for a long time.
There are countless incidents across the country that mirror the shooting of Michael Brown. When these incidents go unreported by the media and are swept under the rug by police departments, what we see in Ferguson is inevitable.
My concern is for the city of Wichita and the community in which I live. There has been growing frustration with the Wichita Police Department for a long time. For instance, the call to greater transparency with the installation of more cameras in police cars has gone unheeded. The call to publicly acknowledge and address racism within the department has not been answered. There are issues beyond policing, such as efforts to deter voting, that frustrate people who live in underserved communities.
Ferguson should be a wake-up call and a learning opportunity for every metropolitan city across the country.
I believe this is why the city needs the faith community, for moments such as this. The church has been the center of every significant movement in this country that has advanced the cause for justice and civil rights. The church has been the conscience of the state.
I believe the role of the faith community is as pivotal as ever. We have a responsibility to shed light on these issues and to help hold our elected officials accountable and responsive to all people. We also have a responsibility to channel the growing frustration of our community into positive energy that can affect lasting change. We don’t have to live one incident away from a firestorm.
Junius Dotson is lead pastor at Saint Mark United Methodist Church in Wichita.