Race relations addressed at eighth annual MLK breakfast

Bishop Geoffrey Dudley

Bishop Geoffrey Dudley

O’FALLON – Attendees at the eighth annual O’Fallon-Metro East NAACP Community MLK Breakfast were asked to consider hard concepts and reflect upon race relations in the nation.

The event, hosted by New Life in Christ Church, celebrates the live and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Bishop Geoffrey Dudley greeted the attendees.

“We consider it a great honor that you would all grace us with your presence and thank God for all that he has given and because of all of our faith in God we are all here together,” Dudley said. “Because of [Martin Luther King Jr.’s] life, because he did not stop, we are all here. He calls us to follow Christ and he calls us all to be one.”

The keynote speaker, Reverend Monsignor William Hitpas of St. Nicholas Catholic Church, spoke about how the nation will not heal racial divides until it reflects inward and admits its sin.

Reverend Monsignor William Hitpas from St. Nicholas Catholic Church of O'Fallon was the keynote speaker at this year's breakfast. Father Hitpas touched on a variety of subjects, including race relations, during his speech. (O'Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

Reverend Monsignor William Hitpas from St. Nicholas Catholic Church of O’Fallon was the keynote speaker at this year’s breakfast. Father Hitpas touched on a variety of subjects, including race relations, during his speech. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

“How do we honor Dr. King in 2017? We honor him by brining the light and the truth. Where do we start to find the truth? We find the truth with an honest conscience. Conscience is the voice of God leading us to the truth. But the voice of God is a quiet voice and we have to be prayerful and humble. Conscience will only allow us to lead us to where we need to be if it allows us to look at our past. Conscience looks in two directions. It looks to the past and says ‘where are my sins’ and until it looks to the past and we own our sins, we cannot go into a future that is bright. Only when we admit the sins of the past can we be open to the grace of God. Only when we admit the sins of the past can reconciliation and salvation be offered to us as individuals and as a country,” Hitpas said.

“White America must own its sins of slavery and discrimination and all of the effects of slavery that are still here. When black men are accused of not being responsible, no one wants to talk about when black men were taken out of the home for years and years and years and all of the effects of that that still go on today. Yes, we’re a blessed nation, but we are a sinful nation. Can we allow our conscience to let us look backwards, to own our sin, so we can look forward into a brighter future?” he continued. “Young black men must be honest and humble enough to admit that much of their behavior is wrong and unacceptable, be they white or black. Their behavior is provocative, and wrong, and irresponsible. Until young black men do that, until they look back, they can’t move forward. White America must see how much effect slavery had on all that. But black men today can’t simply stay in a victim role as an excuse to be irresponsible as a father or a husband. We can’t use excuse. We have to look back at our sins. We have to own them and then we can move forward.”

Hitpas speculated that part of the divide between the black community and law enforcement is because both sides have a potentially similar mindset.

A member of the New Life in Christ Church Worship Arts Ministry performed an interpretive dance tribute for the guests at the breakfast. (O'Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

A member of the New Life in Christ Church Worship Arts Ministry performed an interpretive dance tribute for the guests at the breakfast. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

“Young black men and police men are both victims of the same prejudice. Both are judged by the group in which they belong. None are viewed as individuals with parents, wives, children, and families. A common vulnerability and a common suffering for all the people who love them.”

Hitpas emphasized that he believes the only way forward as a nation is to admit sin and confront hatred and bigotry with love and kindness.

“We will never have reconciliation until we move from the courtroom to the confessional. In the courtroom we argue over who is right. In the confessional, we admit where we are wrong. Until all of us can get out of our self-righteousness of the courtrooms and into the confessional to admit we have all sinned, we can never be what we have dreamed we could be. And we can never live up to God’s dream or Martin Luther King’s dream,” he said. “Non-violence, forgiveness, and love are the positions of the greatest strength. Pursuit of the truth through honestly, conscience, and dialogue can be our only goal. Truth and love can be our only weapons.”