Members of religious communities and organizations are condemning acts of discrimination and violence against Asian Americans in the U.S. They’ve issued statements, attended rallies, prayed and advocated for solutions in support of this diverse group facing harassment, bias and violence across the country.
Concern is widespread. Nearly one-third of Asian Americans fear someone may physically attack or threaten them, an April 2021 Pew Research Center survey found. While anti-Asian bias is not new in America, the survey found that more than 80% of Asian adults say violence against them is increasing, and nearly half experienced an incident tied to their racial or ethnic background since the pandemic began.
In the last year, the advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate tracked thousands of self-reported incidents of discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. The coalition released a national report on March 16, 2021, the day a gunman killed eight people — including six women of Asian descent — at three spas in the Atlanta area. Those fighting to end the hate say the anti-China pandemic hashtags and rhetoric of former President Donald Trump and others helped fuel anti-Asian hate.
Groups such as the Sikh Coalition, the Asian American Christian Collaborative and the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative are pushing for change. Many have advocated in support of legislation that is making its way through Congress: The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act passed the U.S. Senate on April 22, 2021, with overwhelming bipartisan support, and the House is expected to take it up shortly.
The latest edition of ReligionLink features experts to help you report on anti-Asian discrimination and violence in America and religious communities’ responses.
Between March 19, 2020, and Feb. 28, 2021, nearly 3,800 incidents were reported to Stop AAPI Hate, according to the coalition’s national report. Women reported more incidents than men, and the largest ethnic group that reported experiencing hate was Chinese Americans (42.2%), followed by people of Korean (14.8%), Vietnamese (8.5%) and Filipino (7.9%) heritage. The report also noted that the self-reported incidents represent only a fraction of the harassment, discrimination, shunning and attacks that actually occur.
It is hard to prove whether incidents are motivated by hate, but The New York Times found examples of people of Asian descent being beaten, called slurs, kicked, spat upon and pushed since March 2020, according to the newspaper’s April report. Businesses and homes also were vandalized. The evidence of race-based hate was clear in more than 110 of these episodes, the report said.
National Asian-Pacific American organizations working on this issue include the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.
- Read “Asian American leaders see ‘a pivotal moment’ for political participation amid rising hate” from The Philadelphia Inquirer on April 23, 2021.
- Read “In Rare Moment Of Bipartisan Unity, Senate Approves Asian American Hate Crimes Bill” from NPR on April 22, 2021.
- Read “US Sikh community traumatized by yet another mass shooting” from Religion News Service on April 21, 2021.
- Read “‘Harsh reality’: Asian leaders urge US to stop AAPI violence as citizens reexamine pro-American views” from USA Today on April 19, 2021.
- Read “Black and Asian Christian leaders discuss role of church in fighting racism” from Religion News Service on April 6, 2021.
- Read “Asian-Americans Are Being Attacked. Why Are Hate Crime Charges So Rare?” from The New York Times on March 18, 2021.
- Read “Asian American Christians denounce anti-Asian racism amid coronavirus” from Religion News Service on April 2, 2020.
- Read “Trump Defends Using ‘Chinese Virus’ Label, Ignoring Growing Criticism” from The New York Times on March 18, 2020.
On March 16, eight people were killed at three spas in the Atlanta area. Six of the victims were women of Asian descent. A 21-year-old man, whose church removed him from its membership rolls after the shootings, was charged with eight counts of murder.
- Read “At nationwide rallies, Christians stand up for Asian Americans” from Religion News Service on March 29, 2021.
- Read “Atlanta churches near spa attacks pray for victims, community” from Religion News Service on March 22, 2021.
- Read “Atlanta Jewish Council Shows Empathy For Asian Americans” from Religion Unplugged on March 22, 2021.
- Read “Atlanta Suspect’s Fixation on Sex Is Familiar Thorn for Evangelicals” from The New York Times on March 20, 2021.
- Read “Hard workers, dedicated mothers, striving immigrants: These are the 8 people killed in the Atlanta area spa shootings” from USA Today on March 19, 2021.
- Read “Church removes Atlanta shooting suspect from membership, urges ‘no blame’ on victims” from Religion News Service on March 19, 2021.
Surveys, studies and fact sheets
- Read “One-third of Asian Americans fear threats, physical attacks and most say violence against them is rising” from Pew Research Center on April 21, 2021.
- Read “Combating Anti-Asian Sentiment — A Practical Guide for Clinicians” from The New England Journal of Medicine on March 24, 2021.
- Read “One in four have recently witnessed Asian people being blamed for the coronavirus pandemic” from USA Today/Ipsos on March 21, 2021.
- Read “FACT SHEET: Anti-Asian Prejudice March 2021” from the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism.
- Read “FACT SHEET: President Biden Announces Additional Actions to Respond to Anti-Asian Violence, Xenophobia and Bias” from the White House.
- Read “COVID-19 Racism and Mental Health in Chinese American Families” from Pediatrics on November 2020.
- Read “Covid-19 Fueling Anti-Asian Racism and Xenophobia Worldwide” from Human Rights Watch on May 12, 2020.
- Read “Covering anti-Asian hate crimes and incidents: Tips and resources for journalists” from The Journalist’s Resource on March 26, 2021.
- Read “Guidance on Covering Anti-Asian Violence” from the Asian American Journalists Association.
- Read “Sikhism Reporter’s Guide” from the Sikh Coalition.
Gail Song Bantum is the lead pastor at Quest Church in Seattle. In April 2021, she spoke on a Vanderbilt Divinity School panel about Asian American experiences.
Raymond Chang is president of the Asian American Christian Collaborative. Chang, a pastor and a writer, also serves as a campus minister at Wheaton College in Illinois.
David C. Chao is director of the Asian American Program at Princeton Theological Seminary.
Laura Mariko Cheifetz is the assistant dean of admissions, vocation and stewardship at Vanderbilt Divinity School and a contributing editor to Inheritance, a magazine that focuses on stories of Asian American and Pacific Islander Christian faith. She also is an ordained Presbyterian minister.
Cynthia Choi is the co-executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action and a leader of Stop AAPI Hate. For media inquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jung Choi is co-director of the Asian House of Studies at Duke Divinity School. She participated in a Duke Divinity School panel on anti-Asian racism.
Keith Ellison is the attorney general of Minnesota and the first African American and first Muslim to be elected to statewide office in Minnesota. In March 2021, Ellison co-authored a USA Today column titled “Stand together to fight anti-Asian hate. We all have a stake in a more inclusive America.”
Jonathan Greenblatt is the CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights watchdog organization with Jewish roots.
Chenxing Han is the author of Be the Refuge: Raising the Voices of Asian American Buddhists and studied chaplaincy at the Institute of Buddhist Studies in Berkeley, California. Contact Han via her website, or her publisher’s email is email@example.com.
Margari Hill is the executive director of Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative, a faith-based human rights education organization. For media inquiries, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
DJ Ida is the executive director of National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association and a clinical psychologist.
Pardeep Singh Kaleka is executive director of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee. He’s also a member of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, the site of a 2012 mass shooting. Kaleka lost his father in the shooting.
Scott Kennedy is senior adviser and trustee chair in Chinese business and economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. The media contact is H. Andrew Schwartz.
Mihee Kim-Kort is an ordained Presbyterian (PCUSA) minister and serves as co-pastor with her spouse of First Presbyterian Church in Annapolis, Maryland. She wrote a March 2021 column in The New York Times called “I’m a Scholar of Religion. Here’s What I See in the Atlanta Shootings.”
Daniel D. Lee is the academic dean for Fuller Theological Seminary’s Center for Asian American Theology and Ministry. Lee is also an assistant professor of theology and Asian American studies.
Brian Levin is director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism, a nonpartisan research and policy center at California State University, San Bernardino. Levin is also a professor of criminal justice at the university.
Paul C.H. Lim is an associate professor of the history of Christianity at Vanderbilt Divinity School. In April 2021, Lim spoke on a Vanderbilt Divinity School panel about the histories of racialized and gendered violence.
Mae M. Ngai is a professor of Asian American studies and history at Columbia University. Her area of study is U.S. legal and political history with a particular interest in immigration, citizenship and nationalism. She wrote an April piece in The Atlantic titled “Racism Has Always Been Part of the Asian American Experience.”
Linh Thủy Nguyễn is an assistant professor of American ethnic studies at the University of Washington.
Sumie Okazaki is a professor of applied psychology at New York University. Okazaki researches the impact of immigration, social and culture change, and race on Asian and Asian American teens, young adults and parents.
Soong-Chan Rah is a professor of church growth and evangelism at North Park University in Chicago. He spoke on a Vanderbilt Divinity School panel on anti-Asian racism in evangelicalism.
Josh Scott is associate pastor at Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church in Atlanta. He helped organize a prayer walk after the March 2021 spa shootings.
Lok Siu is an Asian diaspora studies associate professor at the University of California Berkeley.
Nikki Toyama-Szeto is the executive director of Christians for Social Action.
John C. Yang is the president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice. For media inquiries, contact Michelle Boykins.