It can be challenging for parents to explain race, discrimination, and equality to their children, but one faith leader says having these thoughtful and sometimes uncomfortable conversations is necessary now more than ever.
Patti Garibay is the founder and executive director of American Heritage Girls (AHG), a faith-based program that has been building Christ-centered character in girls around the world for nearly 25 years.
AHG, an alternative to Girl Scouts USA, is reaching girls ages 5-18 in all 50 states and in 15 countries. The organization offers badge programs, service projects, leadership opportunities, and outdoor experiences - all with an emphasis on Christian values and family involvement.
Garibay told CBN News that church leaders and parents have a responsibility to direct girls and boys toward God's heart, which radiates love and compassion to everyone.
"Although much work has been done to improve race relations in America, we as Christians should be the torchbearers for Christ's love," Garibay said. "Today's church leaders and Christian families — especially parents of tweens and teens — are navigating how to have conversations about race, discrimination, and general lack of respect for differences with their children."
"As believers, we must engage in these conversations that allow us to recognize ways in which we can better understand our neighbor of a different race or ethnicity," she added.
Garibay offered several ways to begin having these discussions with our children.
First, teach them that all people are created in the image of God and use Scripture to support this.
"Scripture tells us in Genesis 1:27 that God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God, he created them; male and female he created them," Garibay noted. "When teaching our children about creation, it is important for them to visually see a variety of images that depict the many different types of people God has created. From coast to coast, around the globe, there are people of varying skin tones, physical features, hair-types — and God created every single one."
Second, explain to children the importance of listening to people from different ethnic backgrounds.
"A significant part of understanding another person is to take the time to listen to them," Garibay told CBN News. "To understand people of different races, we have to stop and listen to their stories, thoughts, and experiences. As parents, find opportunities to diversify your surroundings, what you read, and what you watch in order to listen to those of a different race."
Garibay emphasized the significance of putting our love for others into action.
"Once our children understand that all people are created by God, have learned to listen to others of a different background, and understand the importance of empathy, we must lead them in putting love into action," she said.
"Romans 12:9-10 says, Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Teach your children that service to others is one of the ultimate ways to show God's love and shine as a beacon of light through the darkness."
AHG offers several awards and badges that teach the girls about the history of sacrifice and slavery in America. Girls are eligible to earn the "Harriet Tubman Level Award" which highlights Tubman's history and legacy of escaping slavery in America to become a leading abolitionist.
And earning the "Freedom Seeker's Badge" takes the girls on a journey to discovering more about the impact of the Underground Railroad and the brave men and women who risked their lives so that others could experience freedom.
Most importantly, Garibay says we must teach our children about prayer and support them in understanding God's Word.
"Each step we take toward learning and growing in love, understanding the nature of God and His desire for His people to be reconciled as a family, is a step toward becoming a light as we share God's message of love and acceptance," Garibay added.
Addressing discrimination from a Biblical perspective will allow our children to understand that there is no racial division while fostering their faith in God's guidance and love.
To find out more about American Heritage Girls or to find a troop in your area, click here.
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