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Time for Change: Action not Words. That’s the theme for this year’s Black History Month in the UK, which runs from 01 to 31 October. Since it was introduced into this country in 1987, Black History Month has provided an opportunity to focus on the particular experiences of black communities in the UK; to lament the personal and institutional racism which they have experienced and continue to experience; to celebrate the innumerable ways in which black communities and individuals have enriched our common culture; and to enable wider society to recommit itself to the values of racial justice. This year’s theme bears witness to how much work remains to be done.
The Church of England has, at last and very belatedly, begun to recognise this need for change. Last year the Archbishops’ anti-racism task force published a report, From Lament to Action which made sobering reading. The task force was chaired by Arun Arora, now Bishop of Kirkstall in our own Diocese of Leeds. Its report focused on five priority areas for the Church: participation, governance, training, education and young people, and it set out specific actions that needed to be taken in order to ensure that the gifts of people from the UK’s minority ethnic groups were recognised and used for the benefit of the whole Church. One of its most powerful comments stated that a failure to act now will be seen as another indication, potentially a last straw for many, that the Church is not serious about racial sin.
The anti-racism task force’s report is not remotely concerned with inducing guilt or encouraging identity politics. Rather, it is concerned with encouraging an awareness of all that needs to be done in order to ensure that God’s image is recognised in everyone, regardless of background. Only in that way can we learn to challenge the dehumanising effects of racial sin and begin to celebrate our common identity in Christ. Reading From Lament to Action in this Black History Month might be a good place to start.
With prayers and best wishes,
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