The Child Q report and the racial discrimination with the refugee crisis in Ukraine is challenging us about the need for racial justice – how can churches begin to address it?
What does it mean to be human and black, or indeed any person of colour?
This question becomes more poignant in the light of the recent incident that saw child Q (a 15-year-old black girl) stripped and searched by the police while she was on her monthly period because she was accused of smelling of cannabis. This is shocking as it is degrading, disrespectful and ultimately dehumanising. My goddaughter who is of similar age is in no doubt that this is inhumane. This racial incident has now led to a protest and petition to seek justice.
One of the significant cultural questions we are confronted with at the moment is: what does it mean to be human when you are a person of colour? All humanity is made in the image of God, we, all of us, bear God’s likeness. Yet since 2020 when George Floyd was murdered, there has been a series of dehumanising events that reveals that the humanity of black and brown people is on trial.
These incidents which hit the headlines are at the top of an iceberg of racial injustice experienced by countless individuals and communities. To mention a few: we have seen the impact of the pandemic on people of colour; we have heard from Meghan Markle the ordeal she has had to go through as the first mixed royal; and sport is not exempt because we have seen the racial slurs and attacks suffered by Rashford, Saka and Sancho for missing penalty shoot-outs at the world cup semi-finals. What about public policy? We have had the controversial Sewell report – although it made 24 good recommendations, it did not affirm that institutional racism is still a big issue in Britain.
The most recent of these dehumanising incidents are the racial discrimination that people of colour are facing who are trying to flee the war zone in Ukraine, and the strip search of child Q. These injustices amplify significantly the fact that the humanity of black and brown people is still questioned and not fully accepted.
But through some of these racial inequalities, I believe that God is exposing the racial injustices that have been going on for so long. These exposures are to give our collective humanity an opportunity to address racial injustices in our society. Because after all, God created all humanity in His image, therefore people of colour should be treated with equality, dignity and respect. Through this series of exposures God is not allowing us to move on quickly to the next thing but wants us to dig in and tackle the deep-rooted racial injustices that dehumanise people of colour.
The church has a unique opportunity to lead on this, but that will require the whole church to embrace racial justice as an integral part of God’s mission. We are now in a season when God’s church must embed racial justice thinking, strategies and action in our mission paradigms to offer hope and demonstrate the new humanity in Jesus to the world. Part of this will mean reconfiguring our discipleship models in the light of racial justice. The church has a prophetic mandate to tackle racial injustices that dehumanise people of colour. So how can our churches begin to address racial inequalities in our society?
Call to action
- We can consider our theology. Racial justice concern isn’t a political or ideological football to be kicked about. It is a gospel concern that cuts to the very heart of who God is and who we are in Him. We can all play a part in developing a theology of racial justice. Read widely and engage with theologians and thinkers who are focusing on this concern. Creation theology that affirms that God created one humanity is a crucial starting point. The cross, with the reconciliation of divided communities such as Jews and gentiles, gives us a biblical template that can furnish us on this journey. The One People Commission here at the Evangelical Alliance has put together a recommended resource list covering racial justice and other related themes.
- We can turn up the volume on racial justice concerns in our church practices and liturgy. Speak to your leadership and suggest a preaching series on the need for racial justice. It is good to listen to Pastor Agu, senior pastor of Jesus House, speak in his sermon on Sunday on child Q and the need for the church to rise up and fight to eradicate the menace of racial injustice from our society. Look for worship songs or write your own and sing in your churches. Our house groups can also include discussions on racial justice. Lastly, our churches can participate in Racial Justice Sunday. There are resources out there to facilitate this
- Finally, for those of us involved in training or teaching, whether in a local setting or at a theological college, we can create modules and courses on racial justice. This is because sometimes many ministers and leaders are not well equipped to engage in racial justice advocacy work. Conferences and events can also play their part in training the wider church community with more plenary sessions on racial justice. This must not be reduced to a seminar or workshops but main talks.
What has become apparent through these events is that the church can no longer engage racial justice concerns from arm’s length but must actively seek to get involved so that we can bring a prophetic challenge to our communities and society.
Child Q is Derived from the official review report, Local Child Safeguarding Review Practice published by City & Hackney Safeguarding Children Partnership (CHSCP) in 2022. This document, which captures the racial incident and its breach of safeguarding rules, is available at: Child-Q-PUBLISHED-14-March-22.pdf (chscp.org.uk)