Today the Church remembers the Martyrs of Uganda, young Africans, of Anglican and Roman Catholic background who were put to death by the Ugandan King Mwanga, who despised people of religious faith.
At this time across the United States of America and even here in London, demonstrations continue protesting the murder of another black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis. As we know he was mercilessly pinned down by the knee of a white police officer, begging to be able to breathe, until he died. Other police officers looked on.
While the world searches for a cure and a vaccine against coronavirus - how we need still to find a cure and a vaccine for the racism that is still so pervasive in our societies. We Christians believe in the equality of all peoples and value the richness that comes with racial and ethnic diversity. Racism is a sin; as such we must oppose it in all its forms.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York issued this statement concerning the events in the USA:
“Recent events in the United States of America have once again drawn public attention to the ongoing evil of white supremacy. Systemic racism continues to cause incalculable harm across the world. Our hearts weep for the suffering caused – for those who have lost their lives, those who have experienced persecution, those who live in fear. God’s justice and love for all creation demands that this evil is properly confronted and tackled. Let us be clear: racism is an affront to God. It is born out of ignorance, and must be eradicated. We all bear the responsibility and must play our part to eliminate this scourge on humanity.“As Dr Martin Luther King Jr said, ‘In a real sense, we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Therefore, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’“We pray that God’s abounding wisdom, compassion and love will guide leaders across the world to forge a better society
What can we do as Christians? Many, including my sister Bishop Rose Hudson-Wilkin (above), Bishop of Dover, herself a black woman, say words are now not enough. Some action must be taken.
The faithful of this diocese can redouble our efforts to listen - to listen to minority voices in the Church and beyond the Church; to listen to the voiceless and to those who keep silent after years or generations of oppression. We are a community of reconciliation - and our witness to the world begins with our living that reconciliation within our own Church.
We can speak and preach about the the sin of racism, and keep before the community our need to repent for ways we may be complicit or have in the past been complicit in this sin.
And certainly we can take a stand when politicians manipulate and violate our religious principles. The Primate of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Michael Curry (above), an African American man, denounced President Trump's stunt last Monday, when he clutched a Bible outside St John's Episcopal Church, close to the White House, after he had caused armed security forces to use tear gas and violence to disperse those gathered to peacefully protest George Floyd’s murder:
"This evening, the President of the United States stood in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, lifted up a Bible, and had pictures of himself taken. In so doing, he used a church building and the Holy Bible for partisan political purposes. This was done in a time of deep hurt and pain in our country, and his action did nothing to help us or to heal us.The Bible teaches us that “God is love.” Jesus of Nazareth taught, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” The prophet Micah taught that the Lord requires us to “do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.”The bible the President held up and the church that he stood in front of represent the values of love, of justice, of compassion, and of a way to heal our hurts.We need our President, and all who hold office, to be moral leaders who help us to be a people and nation living these values. For the sake of George Floyd, for all who have wrongly suffered, and for the sake of us all, we need leaders to help us to be “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”
God of justice, In your wisdom you create all people in your image, without exception. Open our eyes to see the dignity, beauty, and worth of every human being. Open our minds to understand that all your children are brothers and sisters in the same human family. Open our hearts to repent of racist attitudes, behaviors, and speech which demean others. Open our ears to hear the cries of those wounded by discrimination and their passionate appeals for change. Fill us with courage that we might seek to heal wounds, build bridges, forgive and be forgiven, and establish peace and equality for all in our communities. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.