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Diocese of Leicester
Diocese of Leicester
Bishop of Loughborough Guli Francis Deqhani.jpg
UK News

'It's clear that there are questions to answer': Bishop demands government inquiry into racism in the UK

by Tola Mbakwe

The Bishop of Loughborough has called for a comprehensive public inquiry into impact the of Covid-19 and the government's action to tackle racism .

It follows criticism of a Public Health England (PHE) report into disparities in Covid-19 risks published this week that it did not go far enough in explaining the reasons why BAME people are more affected.

Figures have also suggested that BAME people were nearly 50 per cent more likely than white people to be arrested in London under coronavirus laws.

Rt Rev Guli Francis-Dehqani told Premier now is the time tackle these issues head on. 

"I think combined with events that we've been witnessing in America, it is now clear that there are questions to answer and matters to explore in terms of clarifying issues around structural racism and just a general culture of discrimination. 

"And in the end, I'm not sure there's a way forward with this other than a formal review or commission."

She explained that racial injustice has been apparent for long time, but the recent death of George Floyd, a black man in the US who died after a police officer kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes, has brought about momentum for change. 

"I would hope that it's [ a government inquiry] just part of a change of culture more generally, that we actually begin to expose the real issues at the heart of the discrimination that is part of the culture and begin to properly find ways of examining them and tackling them and finding solutions for them," Bishop Guli said. 

"I believe that is possible. We still have a very long way to go. And my thought about a report or commission is only that it would be one part of it to help us understand what the issues are to expose them fully, and then come up with suggestions about how we go about addressing those."

On Friday the Health Secretary said the Government  will take action to tackle any structural inequalities that may be contributing to a higher level of Covid-19 deaths among people from a black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) background, 

At the daily Downing Street briefing on Friday, Matt Hancock was asked if authorities were looking into why such groups are more at risk and what was being done to mitigate it.

He explained that the Government does "care deeply" about the issue, adding that he was working with equalities minister Kemi Badenoch on what could be done following the report's findings.

Mr Hancock suggested this included looking at "socio-economic factors", such as "the bigger proportion of people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds working in occupations that are customer focused, for instance in transport and also in the NHS".

He continued: "That may well be, and I would say is likely to be, an important factor in answering this question, that you rightly ask.

"And so the answer to that is to address the risks to those occupations and we're working very hard to do that.

"And in fact the measure on face masks both on public transport and in hospitals will be steps in that journey."

Bishop Guli admitted that the Church of England also has to address racism, and is on a "very long journey" toward tackling it. 

"It has taken far too long and we still have quite a way to go. We are trying to address some of those questions in the Diocese of Leicester and I believe more widely in the Church of England. 

"I think we missed an opportunity about 30 years ago to introduce a commission in the Church of England to investigate these matters and I hope that before too long, we may be in a position to have some kind of review or commission to look more closely at our own life within the Church as we continue to try and improve how we've been, and also to improve representation in all areas of Church life with greater diversity". 

Listen to Premier's full interview with Bishop Guli here: 

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