Though the Black Lives Matter movement may no longer be front-page news, the issues it raises remain firmly at the forefront of Tearfund’s agenda.
Racism is unacceptable to God. To be Christian, therefore, must mean being actively anti-racist in both word and deed. This is our commitment at Tearfund. We will boldly, unashamedly say for as long and as loudly as we need to that Black lives matter.
As part of our commitment to keep engaging with this issue, we have created a Black Lives Matter response guide for our staff, supporters and the wider church.
The guide contains Bible studies, reflections and tips for taking action, as well as a list of further resources. It has been designed to be used by churches, small groups and individuals, and you can download it today.
Whilst we have been taking positive steps forward, as an organisation we have also been reflecting on our shortcomings. We acknowledge that we have not done enough in the past to dismantle the systems, policies and processes that keep systemic racism alive. But we will change.
Even though having a diverse leadership team is vital, we have failed in our attempts to recruit Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people onto our Executive Team. This must change and we commit to doing more to recruit more diversely into senior leadership roles, as well as creating accountability structures to ensure we achieve this. We will change.
Even though racial injustice is a key driver of poverty, we have failed to speak out against it as much as we should. Racism causes broken relationships, and broken relationships keep people trapped in cycles of poverty. There is a legacy of colonialism that has contributed to inequality in many of the countries in which we work. This has tainted the experiences of people who live in or have their roots in these places. We have not been as diligent as we should have been in recognising this, or in understanding what it means for those who work for us, the people we serve, and the way in which we do our work. We will change.
Even though we believe that every human being is made in the image of God, we have failed to live this out by creating a workplace where all can feel included. We are committed to learning from the mistakes of the past, and will look at how our approaches and theology have contributed to racial injustice. We will change.
Taking practical action
What we have done:
Over recent years, we have undertaken an extensive piece of work to identify areas where Tearfund could improve its practices in relation to Diversity & Inclusion (D&I), including but not limited to our theology, communications, HR and recruitment practices and policies, leadership and staff development. As part of that, in 2019, we appointed a dedicated D&I Manager to lead our work in this area.
We have reviewed our policies and practices in these areas and have, among other things made a commitment to ensuring the language and imagery we use in all our communications is inclusive and does not perpetuate stereotypes. We have also looked at how we are developing our talent pipeline for those from diverse backgrounds.
As part of our broader work on developing a more inclusive culture, staff at all levels, including senior leadership, have attended D&I workshops which address bias, stereotypes, power and privilege.
We are acutely aware that our audiences and supporter base are not as diverse as they could be, and are therefore not representative of the UK church. Recognising this, over a year ago we created a team who engage directly with Black Majority Churches. The purpose of this team is to build better relationships and ensure the work we do engages the whole UK church.
In recent years we have been through significant organisational change, meaning we are decentralising power away from our headquarters in the UK, creating a Global Leadership Team that includes our country directors in the global south.
What we are doing:
In addition to creating the Black Lives Matter response guide, we have spent the last few months undertaking an organisation-wide programme of education about racial injustice. The aim has been to help take our workforce on a journey of growth in understanding both the damaging effects of racism and how it has systematically oppressed people over centuries. The work has been led by our D&I Manager, a Black woman who consults with a race and ethnicity working group.
This programme has included facilitated discussion spaces, the launch of a book club and teaching sessions. Alongside all of this, recognising that this has been a difficult time for our staff who have been impacted by racism, we have implemented specific well-being strategies to support them and will continue to provide safe spaces for them to engage in as needed.
What we will do:
Alongside our Board and Executive Team, our D&I Manager will continue to review our work in the light of racial injustice, with a view to ensure our work does not oppress those we serve in any way. We are actively seeking ways to recruit more diversity to our Board and Executive Team, and will use reverse mentoring at executive level as a way to build genuine awareness of the barriers faced, initially by those from Black backgrounds. We have an unconscious bias training in autumn 2020 which will be compulsory for all staff on an annual basis.
We are examining our internal processes to develop ways to determine how we can become more transparent about race and ethnicity in our external reporting, including in our Annual Report. To do this, we are improving our recruitment processes to provide a more accurate and detailed picture of our diversity. We will pay more attention to reporting on what we are doing to embed anti-racist practices into the work that we do.
We know there is work ahead of us. But we are committed to doing it, no matter how long it takes. We will walk this journey with humility, and passionately pursue the restoration of broken relationships.
We are willing to sit in the discomfort and change that this work will bring. As individuals, we will challenge ourselves. As an organisation, we will grow. As followers of Jesus, we will act justly.
Now and always, Black lives matter.