Mike Pence meets black faith leaders after George Floyd death

Vice President Mike Pence speaking alongside Bishop Harry Jackson of Maryland's mostly black Hope Christian Church in Beltsville.(Photo: YouTube)

The church is a good place to start a conversation about healing the racial rift in America, US Vice President Mike Pence has said.

Pence met black community and faith leaders for a listening session at a Maryland church on Friday after a week of angry protests in response to the death of unarmed black man George Floyd at the hands of white police officers in Minneapolis. 

"My prayer is that we as a nation have ears to hear -- to listen to one another, and open hearts," Pence said. "I'm really here to listen."

He was joined by Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, where the listening session took place.

The bishop called Floyd's death "almost prophetic and symbolic of a time and season that change had to come". 

"Black and whites came together to address the civil rights movement, and we found momentum. I think we will similarly find momentum during this time," he said. 

"It's not just George Floyd's death alone. His death is representative of the nearly 400-year history of challenges we've had. ... This administration didn't create this problem, but it has the opportunity to help us heal."

Jackson added: "Minorities need to hear that they are valued and that the lives of people really matter." 

Pence said the Administration's focus now was "on healing and how we heal America", adding that the church had a role to play in the process. 

"I couldn't help but feel that as our nation reels from the tragic death of George Floyd, that a place to start a conversation is a place of worship," he said. 

"It's the wellspring of our nation's strength ... it's been the wellspring of our national unity and our steady march toward a more perfect union."

Pence said that the images of Floyd's death, which went viral, had "shocked the conscience" of America and that work had to be done to break down the "barriers to opportunity" that have left many African Americans behind. 

"We have no tolerance for violence against an individual in this country or tolerance for police brutality, and no tolerance for rioting in the streets or looting and destruction of property or the claiming the innocent lives, including the lives of law enforcement," he said.