Almost a year ago, a Black man was murdered at the hands of the police in the United States. His name was George Floyd. It's a name many of us are now familiar with, as many of us are with the ongoing conversations about racial injustice. In an article I wrote last year, I asked: 'What if the death of George Floyd, though despicable and an indictment on those who were in place to protect and serve him, was the catalyst we needed to cause an awakening because we had buried racial injustice so deep we'd forgotten it was there?'
During the last year, Tearfund has continued the conversation about racial injustice both internally and with you, our wonderful supporters. As seekers of justice, we have continued the work of uprooting racial injustice because we know it matters to God.
Practically, we have tried to equip you with resources to help you do the same. We shared a guide to help you to respond to racial injustice, published a study on YouVersion about what a culture of justice could look like and, more recently, shared a Bible study on what it means to use privilege for purpose. We have committed to operating as an anti-racist organisation, recognising the devastating impact that racism has on our world and how it contributes to poverty. This is a journey.
A critical moment
At this critical moment as we approach the anniversary of the death of George Floyd on 25 May, the opportunity to review, reflect and reset lies before us.
Across the world in many of the countries we work in, racial and ethnic discrimination continues to marginalise communities. As the world continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, the ramifications of this are becoming increasingly clear. We are witnessing inequality in access to health services and vaccines in places like India and Brazil. Increasing death rates and growing numbers of cases impact the potential for work in economies where informal self-employment is the lifeline that keeps families alive.
The Durban Report that was published as a result of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, emphasised that: 'poverty, underdevelopment, marginalisation, social exclusion and economic disparities are closely associated with racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and contribute to the persistence of racist attitudes and practices which in turn generate more poverty.'
Collectively, the work we do at Tearfund, supported by you and our partners, will be strengthened as we strive both to understand racial injustice and pursue racial justice.
All one in Christ
Galatians 3:28 is often quoted when talking about God's kingdom as the ideal for unity. Reading it recently I was struck by the last eight words: 'for you are all one in Christ Jesus'. I wondered how often when thinking about the unity the Bible calls us to, we actually consider what it means to be one in Christ. It doesn't mean we are the same, but united and diverse. The idea of unity that is blind to diversity is one that sees uniformity in our identity in Jesus but misses the fact that God created us diversely.
Galatians 3:29 talks about us belonging to Christ, being heirs of the kingdom of God according to the promise. When I think about being an heir, there are entitlements in this that are granted to all which are not conditional. Being one in Christ is more than unity. It's about belonging. It's about equality. It's about equity. And it's about justice.. In our world today, unity has been used to standardise the human experience, which detracts from the ways that God created us. But, being one in Christ means being treated in a way that reflects being an heir - a treatment that is fair and consistent and not based on ethnicity or heritage
If we truly believe the words in Psalm 139 that we were known before we were formed, we would accept that God knew what each of us would look like, what language we would speak, the difference we would make in the world. And we'd accept that God was confident in that formation – Genesis 1:31 confirms this. I believe that I was made in the image of God, but it was never God's plan for my ethnic heritage to influence the way others treat me or for it to limit access to opportunities. The same goes for all of those who look like me or who are from other groups who have been marginalised because of the way God made them. That was never God's plan.
Standing on the side of justice
This is where we see that broken and unjust relationships have superseded the plan of God who created us to live in relationships that are equitable, flourishing and just. But, as children of God and followers of Jesus, our aim should always be to reflect God's kingdom. This is why we cannot sit back and allow injustice to hold people in poverty or to impede life choices and devalue the humanity of individuals. We must always stand on the side of justice.
The murder of George Floyd may not appear to be directly linked to the work we do at Tearfund and I believe that is because it's not a link, but a thread. We cannot care about lifting people out of poverty and ignore racial justice. The battle can only be won when both things matter equally. Let's stay awake and unearth the past to create a future where flourishing is an opportunity for all.
We would love you to continue to pursue an understanding of racial justice with us as we collectively seek to follow Jesus where the need is greatest.