Let's talk about race

By Sanjay Mahtani

we demand justice sign

“It is not enough to be non-racist, we must be antiracist.” – Angela Davis

“Racism isn’t getting worse; it’s getting filmed.” – Will Smith

George Floyd was a black man who was killed by a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, in Minneapolis on Monday 26 May, 2020. He pleaded for his life several times, saying “I can’t breathe”, and since his death, riots have ensued in Minneapolis and beyond - calling for justice and bringing race-based injustice to the fore.

* The video of his death has circulated widely and been seen countless times. We encourage you to watch it if you feel able, noting that it is highly graphic and may trigger trauma, anger, and anxiety. *

Justice matters to God. God cares deeply for the plight of the oppressed, the downtrodden, and the marginalized in society. Throughout Scripture, God fights for people, dignifies people, and calls those who love Him – His people and His church – to do the same. 

God fights for people

Throughout the Old Testament, God fights for justice for His people, and Jesus continues by proclaiming a day of jubilee and liberty for the captives as the cornerstone of his ministry. The early church followed Jesus’ example, with Paul and James instructing the early church to show no partiality (Romans 2:11, James 2:1), and outlining the equality we have in Christ (Galatians 3:28-29). 

God dignifies people

When Jesus walked on earth, he consistently spent time with, served, and dignified those whom society hated. Whether women, sinners, or those of other races, Jesus showed no partiality, in contrast with the religious leaders who were concerned with people’s cleanliness, status in society, and morality.

God calls His people to do the same

We are made in God’s image, and God calls us to engage in building towards justice. At the start of his ministry on earth, Jesus declared that his ministry included freedom and justice. As the Father sent Jesus, so He sends us.

What next?

We have compiled a range of resources for you to use, to pray, read, speak, and act justly. We will be updating this page with further resources as we find them. Please let us know what you’re reading at oxford@occ.org.uk

Pray

  • A Lord’s Prayer for justice written by Father Ron Rolheiser, a Catholic priest in Canada
  • After praying the above prayer, take time to reflect and repent, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal prejudices in your heart - especially racism. Is your heart full of love, for God, for all people including those not like you, and for justice?

Read

Watch

  • Agu Irukwu leads Jesus House in London and oversees the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in the UK – watch his response here
  • Tope Koleoso is Lead Pastor of Jubilee Church in London – watch his response here

Talk

  • Read these 10 tips for talking about race by Thabiti Anyabwile. Then, take time to discuss with friends and family race, racism, and these realities in your community, church, and workplace .

Advocate

  • There will be any number of small, medium, and large ways in which racism is at work in our communities. We can choose to be God’s vessel for justice in these situations, which will call for love, prayer, creativity, perseverance, and advocacy. Why not speak to others in your Community about ways in which they are speaking out, and inspire one another to do so?

Create

  • The death of George Floyd has unleashed a powerful wave of poetry, visual art, writing, music and more. Lend your voice, your time, your paints, instruments, gifts and skills to explore God’s heart for justice.  

FAQs

Isn’t this just America’s problem?

No. George Floyd died in America, but racism is an international evil. When one part of the body suffers, all suffer. As God builds an international family, we are called to an international solidarity and empathy, and to consider areas in our own hearts, our communities, and our society where racism is found.

Furthermore, the UK is deeply embedded in the history of slavery and its descendant - institutional racism. Racism exists to this day in UK society, and more must be done to root it out – individually, communally, and nationally.

What about the church?

Far from being an isolated incident, George Floyd’s murder was part of a larger, structural abuse of the freedoms and rights of black people, and all of those from a BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) background. We must confess that the UK church has been an arena in which racist attitudes have also gone unchallenged and repent of our part in that.

We acknowledge that God is building a multi-racial, multi-ethnic body across the world. We must actively participate in God’s great plan to draw all nations to Himself, which will culminate in a beautiful, marvellous throng of worship from all nations, tribes and tongues!

So, what can we do?

Even the smallest act for justice, when done out of love, can have huge consequences. Actions demonstrate which kingdom we are a part of. Even a small act of love and courage demonstrates our citizenship in heaven and the love of the God we serve.

Pray, read, watch, talk, advocate, create, give, learn. “When it’s God’s idea, the littlest act of love can be immensely powerful.” Each of these is a powerful, justice-seeking action that can contribute to a more just world.

Sanjay Mahtani