Greetings and blessings to you! In the United States, May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. In 1978, a bill was passed in the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Jimmy Carter designating the first 10 days of the month as “Pacific/Asian American Heritage Week.” In 1992, this week of recognition was expanded to include the entire month in 1992 and was called “Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.” In 2009, the celebration was redesignated as “Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.”
Regardless of how you may refer to this celebration, I thank God for all the amazing Asian and Pacific Islander (API) leaders we have in the ELCA. They are serving in our congregations, our synods, and our churchwide organization. I am especially grateful for those who lead our API ethnic ministries and the Association for Asians and Pacific Islanders. API people also contribute to the life, culture, and achievements of our country. I am deeply honored and humbled to be the first ELCA Vice President of Asian descent.
My parents came to the United States from Pakistan in the 1970s in search of a better life. Like so many other people of API descent, they found themselves in a new country with an alien culture and unfamiliar customs. Their story is not unusual among API people in our country or our Church. The ELCA counts 22,000 Asians and Pacific Islanders as members. Of these, 65-70% percent are worshiping in non-Asian or Pacific Islander specific communities. Our API members can sometimes struggle with a sense of not belonging or have feelings of isolation even though they are members of a church community. There is pressure to fit in to the dominant culture of worship and of “how to be church.” In addition, our country has seen a recent surge of anti-Asian and Pacific Islander violence, which has caused increased anxiety and fear.
So, this month I invite all congregations, synods, and the ELCA churchwide organization to condemn violence against the API community, to listen to the stories of API people in our congregations, to recognize, encourage and engage them in leadership roles, and to support API ethnic ministries in the ELCA.
God bless all of you during this Asian American and Pacific Islander Month.