Combating racism and celebrating diversity
Affirming common humanity
In a speech to Synod in 1999, following the findings of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry in which he had been involved, Dr Sentamu challenged the Church along with other British organisations to address the problem of institutional racism. He urged the Church of England to provide a better reflection of the communities it served: 'The organisational culture of the Church of England ... is still socially glued together by a culture that is monochrome – that is white.' He said, 'It lacks colour and spice'.
Five years earlier, as a vicar in Tulse Hill in the Diocese of Southwark, he had been involved in the development of a Report to the Church with that same title: Colour and Spice: (Guidance on Combating Racism in Church Schools).
More recently, in 2011, the House of Bishops teaching document ‘Affirming our Common Humanity’ confirmed its belief that cultural and ethnic diversity strengthens the Church and that the Church must be constantly vigilant regarding racism and all forms of prejudice in its common life and its structures.
The Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns (CMEAC) is a committee of the Archbishops’ Council and is accountable to the Church of England’s highest decision-making body, the General Synod. Find out more here
There is only one race – the human raceArchbishop Sentamu
In our domestic, local, national, and international relationships, the Archbishop wrote that 'We must rediscover our common humanity and work together as members of the one race – the human race. Jesus’ arms stretched out are for the whole world. He raises our hopes, not to dash them, but to energise us with new life and transforming love.' To read his article 'Hosanna! Save us now!'
The hand of friendship
Dr John Sentamu has personally been subjected to racist attacks and prejudice. As a vicar in Tulse Hill he took a funeral and was abused by a man who didn’t want him to take the service. When he was Bishop of Stepney his home was subjected to an arson attack. He was hospitalised for a short time following a racially motivated assault in Birmingham, after his appointment as Advisor to the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. Dr John Sentamu has been stopped and searched by the police eight times. A number of times during his ministry – whether as vicar in South London, or Bishop in Stepney, Birmingham and now in York, Dr Sentamu has received hate mail – and one person was tried, convicted and sentenced. Nevertheless he has publicly offered the hand of friendship to some of his abusers, remembering Abraham Lincoln’s words, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”
"I spend much time in prayer when hate mail comes to me, or when I hear about online intimidation. May we, like Hezekiah, always put our hope and trust in our God who is with us, and whose love is greater than any hatred." Archbishop John Sentamu
We each have a responsibility to foster better community relations and improve our sense of what it means to be a good neighbourArchbishop Sentamu (Visiting York Mosque and Islamic Centre in 2017)