The tragic death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida has provoked an angry national controversy about racial justice in America. Racial tension affects our schools, our workplaces, our homes, and our neighborhoods. Santa Barbara is long overdue for a public conversation about race.

There will be an introduction meeting on Wednesday, April 11 at 7:30 pm at Christ the King Episcopal Church at 5073 Hollister Avenue in Santa Barbara. The “Conversation about Race” will be conducted on Saturday, April 14, 8:30 am to 5:00 pm at Christ the King. All in the Santa Barbara community are welcome!

This initiative represents a sincere effort by leaders from the Santa Barbara religious community to draw on the deep wellsprings of our faith traditions to make religion part of the solution rather than the problem with regard to racial justice. Those who do not adhere to a religious belief or a faith tradition are welcome to participate, but should respect that this is a faith-based approach.

The Racial Reconciliation Core Group consists of black and white men seeking to love God and each other. It has met for the past four years and its goal is to be an instrument of racial reconciliation in Santa Barbara. It seeks to create a people movement grounded in a reconciling spirit and reconciled relationships as a foundation for genuine social change in our community.

The conversation about race will utilize a unique process developed by The Reverend Canon Brian Cox which seeks the softening of hearts as a prelude to constructive joint problem solving. The goal is to address local, systemic injustice.

Cox has utilized this methodology fruitfully in some of the world’s roughest neighborhoods such as Sudan, Kashmir and the Middle East. In January 2011 he organized a faith-based reconciliation process in Amman, Jordan that brought together the leadership of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood with American Evangelical Christian leaders, many of whom were strong supporters of Israel.

Pastor Louis Watkins of New Friendship Church and a veteran of the civil rights movement observes, “I spent many years taking the strictly political approach to racial justice but have discovered, particularly in Southern California, that it is incapable of addressing the deeper systemic roots of racial injustice that persist in society. I have come to see that faith-based reconciliation can take us where secular political activism is no longer capable of bringing social change.”


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