The Racial Justice Advocacy Forum (RJAF) has published a number of recommendations for churches to put into practice in response to the government's commissioned race report.
The RJAF's own report questions the conclusion of last month's Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report that rejected the UK as an instiutionally racist country. The report also highlights that the government-commissioned report didn't address reparation and distanced itself from the Windrush scandal.
The RJAF Forum comprises of representatives from various Christian institutions such as the Ascension Trust, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, the Evangelical Alliance, the Methodist Church, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), the Salvation Army, the Sam Sharpe Project, and the United Reformed Church.
Eleasah Louis, author of the RJAF report spoke to Premier about what was contained in the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report: "Can we really say that institutional racism is not an underlying issue for many people? Has the report been done in a way that it can definitely say that, or is there more work to be done? And yeah, I just feel that it was, and RJAF feel that it was, very optimistic. It did include a lot of data. But it distanced itself from the Windrush scandal, as well. And that's something quite recent. And so although they're working with data, some of our members thought that it was cherry picked, as other entities said the same thing as well."
She added that the RJAF did welcome the report's acknowledgement that the term BAME wasn't helpful: "We welcome walking away from terms like BAME, it does brush, a broad stroke. And it doesn't really talk about the details, the finer details that come along with different ethnic groups in different locations and settings and experiences equally, the term race, and me personally, I'm quite passionate about walking away from that term, because it is the term ultimately that we've been challenging for decades now."
The RJAF's report contains three main recommendations.
Eleasah Louis said it's important churches carry out their own research: "Firstly, the report recommends that churches engage in research themselves. Some churches and church organizations are better at it than others. And also on a local level. Do ministers and pastors and leadership teams know who makes up their congregation, and how that impacts what they believe about God, how they engage with the religion, how they engage with the community and people within their church setting."
"The second main point is that churches should be continuing to engage and get clear biblical cases, for their understanding about ethnic, ethnic difference. multiculturalism, working with one another, loving one another, all those things, how do we as a church feel about racial discrimination in Britain? What is our biblical basis? How do we stand on the word? Where do we stand with it? And how do we feel about what's happening in society today? So not just are we not going to get involved? Or actually, you know, it's not that serious, it's too much of a big deal. What's your biblical case? How does God feel? What does the word say about how we treat others? How we action, justice, and how we theologically approach justice as well," she added.
The RJAF report goes on to highlight the importance of churches challenging ethnic discrimantion within their places of worship and building response teams to deal with racism: "Build response teams, there are people that are really keen to have these conversations with churches, they're good at it, they might need racial justice training, they might need theological training, but there'll be people in the community that will look to the church and say, What do we do? There's protests happening, you know, something happened at work, I'm feeling excluded. I'm feeling maybe guilty of excluding others. What can I do, we need response teams, a few people, a leadership member, a couple of congregational members to say we're here, let's look up a word, let's look at action, and how we as a church can reach out and help with the difficulties in the community."