May 25, 2018
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Youth of Color Discuss Racism, Celebrate Diversity

 NEW ORLEANS (ELCA) -- Members of Ascension Lutheran Church, Dorado,
Puerto Rico, swayed gently to the beat as the music started to play.
Once the drums started, they were up on their feet. Tambourines, maracas
and drums in hand, the youth and their parents pounded out a festive
beat, smiling, laughing and dancing as the music played.
The song, "Salaam Alaikum," means "May peace be with you" in Arabic.
The Lutherans from Puerto Rico make sure to add some Caribbean flair to
Members of Ascension were among 89 congregations from across the
United States, Caribbean and Virgin Islands attending the Multicultural
Youth Leadership Event (MYLE) with the theme, "God is Key: Open Your
Heart and Step to God's Beat" here at the Sheraton Hotel.
More than 900 Lutheran teenagers of various ethnicities met this
week to celebrate, worship and share cultures and experiences in the
Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). The event preceded the
2009 ELCA Youth Gathering here.
Most participants will stay for the gathering, July 22-26, which
includes some 37,000 Lutheran teenagers, adult leaders and other
volunteers. "Jesus Justice Jazz" is the theme of activities at the
Ernest N. Morial Convention Center and the Louisiana Superdome.
Participants will also scatter across the area to assist at nearly
200 community service sites.
The Lutheran youth shared music and dance with each other: members
of Alaska Native Lutheran Church, Anchorage, Alaska, taught a traditional
native the "polar bear" dance; the Rev. Gabi Alelabouni, Faith Lutheran
Church, Brookfield, Ill., played the tabla, a Middle Eastern drum, while
Ali Amir, an international guest from Palestine, played the Kanun, a
Middle Eastern plucked zither. Amir is one of 37 international youth who
attended MYLE and is at the Youth Gathering.
The event challenged the youth to use music as an expression of
their faith, cultural background and as an example of diversity in the
ELCA to the rest of the Lutheran community.
"God never works alone; God works in community," said the Rev. Ruben
F. Duran, who preached at morning worship. "Community is the body of
Christ." Duran is ELCA director for new evangelizing congregations.
Duran, originally from Lima, Peru, was one of six speakers. Other
speakers were Niveen Sarras, a student from Palestine attending Lutheran
School of Theology at Chicago (LTSC); Larry Thiele, a synodically
authorized minister who serves Dacotah Oyate Lutheran Church on the
Spirit Lake Nation in North Dakota; Karris Golden, a journalist and
public speaker of African and Scandinavian descent; Dr. Joy Phillip, who
holds a degree in systematic theology from LSTC and is originally from
India; and the Rev. Patrick Keen, the pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church
"You are going to be exposed to people who are hurting," Keen said
in his message during opening worship.
He also spoke about racism in the church, a major topic during the
event. Keen, an African American who was involved in the civil rights
movement in the 1960s in Chicago while in high school, told the youth
that no one can deny them access to the church because of their race,
ethnic background or sexual orientation.
"Regardless of what anyone else says, I have access," he said.
Participants attended two daily worship services, ethnic caucuses,
leadership workshops and learning sessions where they discussed living in
interfaith families, global identity and advocacy.
Lutheran teenagers from Abiding Savior Lutheran Church, Durham,
N.C., presented "What's color got to do with it," a video they created
after being treated as outsiders and subjected to misconceptions,
stereotypes and social rejections at previous youth events because they
are African American. The students in the video described being stared
at, excluded and treated differently because of the color of their skin.
Alexus Monds, a member of Abiding Savior, said that, although they
don't expect to fix the problem of racism in the church, they want to
make sure the problem was known.
"We don't expect this to change people, but we want to make sure
this experience don't change us," she said.
* Carrie L. Draeger is a senior communication major with a concentration
in journalism at Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Wash. This summer
she is an intern with the ELCA News Service.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or
ELCA News Blog:

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