CARJ AGM looks at ‘Institutional Racism in the Church’
The Catholic Association for Racial Justice (CARJ) held its Annual General Meeting on 7 November 2020 on Zoom. The speaker was Anglican Fr Azariah France-Williams, author of Ghost Ship: Institutional Racism and the Church of England.
Fr Azariah raised questions with and answered questions from Catholic friends about their hope to encourage fellow Catholics to consider ‘Institutional Racism in the Church’. He spoke movingly about his own upbringing in a Catholic school where his being feted for achievement by the school authorities only made his life more difficult with the racist bullies. He spoke too of the changing face of racism and the frequent micro-aggressions experienced by black people being like a toxic air that seriously damages those who must breathe it. And he spoke of the different ways that the systems in place in the institutions of the Church in this country negatively impact on black people. Those present were fully engaged by Fr Azariah and found considerable common ground with him.
Earlier, at the AGM, CARJ had discussed the many strands of its work over the past eighteen months. The Travellers Network, the Urban Network, the Schools Project, the Christian Network Against Caste Discrimination (CNACD), the Conference on Belonging, the History of the Past Ten Years, the Liverpool Project were all reported.
The past seven months with the pandemic, the death of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter has been a time of increased interest in racial justice and in CARJ, whose work has increased exponentially. Members asked whether in the light of the recent global demonstration of concern for racial justice, the Bishops might re-consider their decision to stop the Racial Justice Sunday collection going to CARJ.
After the meeting, Mrs Yogi Sutton (Chair of CARJ) commented: “The very obvious need for pro racial justice work within the church calls on all of us for even greater efforts and much more funds. Fr Azariah Williams spoke of us ‘being part of the presentation but not a part of the production.’ I want to go a step further. Black people are members within the church. Whilst they are accepted ‘preparing the meal in the kitchen’, surely the time has come for all to be allowed to join in at the dining table.
“Black parishioners are as capable. They too have God given gifts. They should be part of the decision making, holding positions of responsibility. One would feel included when one is fully consulted. ‘We are equal in dignity,’ how about showing this in practice in all that happens within our parishes.”