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AAPI Heritage and Healing Our Earth

Performances celebrating Pacific Island culture at Polynesian Cultural Center. Image Courtesy of Honolulu Vibes

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, a time to reflect and celebrate the many contributions Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders have made to the history, culture, and achievements in the United States.

The category “AAPI” in and of itself represents a vast and diverse population of individuals and communities in our country. The different perspectives and contributions we’ve highlighted here are just a sample of voices that come from different geographies and varied cultural backgrounds, all stretching across historical timelines.

Yet these three individuals speak with one voice about the role we have to play in healing our earth and our communities.

Liuan Huska, Journalist and Writer

Image Courtesy of International Women’s Media Foundation

Liuan Huska is a freelance journalist and writer at the intersection of ecology, embodiment, and faith. She also serves on the board of A Rocha USA, a Christian nonprofit devoted to restoring people and places through biodiversity conservation and ecological action.

Huska grew up in Southeast Texas as a first-generation Chinese immigrant. She attended Wheaton College in Illinois where she studied anthropology, continuing that pursuit through a Master’s degree at the University of Chicago.

Huska is a storyteller at the crossroads of environment, culture, and religion. She writes on her website, “I see our changing climate as the biggest challenge humans face this century. I’m unearthing stories of resilience, adaptation, meaning-making, and hope from all corners of the world, especially ones overlooked by those in power.”

Huska believes that Asian American Christians have a unique perspective and background that empowers them to “recover our voices and address climate change.”

Huska wrote the following for the Asian American Christian Collaborative, “As Asian American Christians, we can begin to excavate some of the wisdom from our ancestral philosophical traditions, recognizing that God has shone the light of his truth on all cultures through his general revelation. Challenging the idea of individual first, (nuclear) family first, or ‘America first,’ we can explore how we are formed in relationship and interdependent with many unseen others.”

Huska believes that the heritage of Asian Americans gives a refreshing shift in perspective that moves us away from binary thinking that has contributed to the climate crisis toward a more holistic perspective that allows us to see our interconnectedness with each other and the natural world, all of which is spurred on by faith in God and Jesus’ invitation to his table, where we begin to recognize the sacredness of our own bodies, other bodies, and even the body of the earth.

Erina Kim-Eubanks, Co-Pastor of Bethel Community Presbyterian Church

Image Courtesy of Bethel Community

Erina Kim-Eubanks is a second generation Korean American who serves as co-minister of the Bethel Community Presbyterian Church in San Leandro, California. 

Several years ago, Kim-Eubanks reflected on “Five Reasons for the Church to Celebrate Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders” for Missio Alliance. In her article, she says that celebrating AAPI Heritage Month is an opportunity to fight against assimilation and cultural erasure, to celebrate the richness, diversity, beauty, and inherent goodness of these various cultures as made in God’s image and worthy of celebration.

It is also an opportunity to “both excavate and celebrate our histories.” Kim-Eubanks writes, “We fight for our right to remember. We say the names of our ancestors and honor their courage and sacrifice… Choosing to reclaim the histories that have either been consciously or unconsciously silenced is an act of resistance. We make our voices heard and our history known.”

AAPI Heritage Month is an opportunity to celebrate the many gifts and talents that are part of the body of Christ within the AAPI community, to broaden the population’s understanding of American diversity beyond the “black-white” binary, and to acknowledge the unique contributions the AAPI church has made in practicing the Jesus Way, perspectives that broaden and enlarge our understanding of God and the ways the Holy Spirit has been at work throughout history and culture.

Kim-Eubanks writes, “As I celebrate AAPI Heritage, I affirm that the American church, and even the church universal, would not be the same if we were not a part of the Body. We are a blessing, not a burden. To God be glory and praise!”

Kim-Eubanks church partners with San Leandro 2050, a local, community based organization that “envisions a city that eliminates its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 to reverse the negative effects of climate change.” San Leandro 2050 has partnered with Bethel to form a community garden on their church campus.

Charles Lee, Senior Policy Advisor to the Office of Environmental Justice for the EPA

Image Courtesy of University of Michigan

Charles Lee is a Chinese American born in Taiwan and raised in New York City. Lee began thinking and writing about the link between race, poverty, and the environment in the late 1970s. His landmark 1987 report, “Toxic Wastes and Race,” was written for the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice. It gave a name to the work of environmental justice and brought empirical evidence to support the concept of environmental racism.

Lee was the lead organizer of the historic First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, a four-day Summit held in 1991 sponsored by the United Church of Christ’s Commission for Racial Justice. This Summit helped to launch a national environmental justice movement that ultimately led to the formation of the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice, which was created in 1992.

In a 2022 reflection on AANHPI Heritage Month, Lee says that the environmental justice movement has “come full circle—from a time when environmental justice did not have a name to today, when it is at the center of the Biden-Harris Administration’s agenda.” Lee believes that “today represents a historic opportunity for a whole new generation of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders to step forward and provide leadership to advance environmental justice for all communities.”

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