Illustration by Sacrée Frangine
Last week, US citizen George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis, a major city in Minnesota, USA. Footage of the officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost 9 minutes while Floyd cried out that he couldn’t breathe has become a catalyst for protests in America and across the globe.
The officer involved has been charged with murder, and the three other officers who stood by have now been charged with aiding and abetting murder, yet the protests will continue. Such events of police brutality are not one-off events, but are only one symptom of the institutional racism that still runs deep throughout American society. Sixty years on from the Civil Rights Movement, we must acknowledge the oppression and inequalities that millions of black people continue to face, and we must do all we can to confront it within our own borders too.
At FaithAction, we represent a diverse, national network of faith-based and community organisations. We are therefore proud to add our signature to this Black Lives Matter solidarity statement along with several other interfaith and multifaith organisations, signifying our solidarity with black communities both in the USA and the UK.
Please take the time to read our commitment below:
As faith leaders and activists from all over the UK, we write in solidarity with the black communities in the USA and the UK.
We have been horrified by the killing of George Floyd in the USA, and the brutality against the black communities there. Whilst these events have taken place thousands of miles away, we cannot ignore them, and must remain vigilant with regards to the situation in the UK.
We believe that voices from the black communities should be at the fore now, but as many of our own communities are comprised of people from different races and ethnicities, we wanted to make a statement of support. We stand alongside the black communities of the UK, of all faiths and none. Whilst Britain is overall a tolerant country, we recognise the history of systemic racism and prejudice many have faced, and reject the pernicious ideology of white supremacy.
As in the USA, COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on longstanding racial inequalities in this country. The report published by Public Health England this week shows that people from black and Asian ethnic groups are up to twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than those from white British backgrounds. This is deeply troubling, and there is concern that the crisis will have further disproportionate impacts on the BAME community in other ways.
We stand shoulder to shoulder with the black population of the UK, and the USA, in affirming that Black Lives Matter. Support for social change from different faith communities has been a source of strength in the past. The civil rights movement in the USA in the 1960s was backed by many faith communities. Rev Martin Luther King was president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and received support from different Churches. Furthermore, one of King’s most vociferous allies was Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who famously said after marching with him at Selma in 1965: “I felt my legs were praying.”
As well as expressing solidarity with the black population of the UK and USA, we recommit to standing up to racism and prejudice within our own communities, and wider British society.
Maurice Ostro OBE
Chair, Faiths United
Abbot, Amaravati Buddhist Monastery
Chair, Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board
Nemu Chandaria OBE
Trustee, Council of Christians and Jews
President, Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe
Mustafa Field OBE
Director, Faiths Forum for London
General Secretary, Hindu Council UK
Rev Dr Heather Morris
Methodist Church in Ireland
Rev Canon Lusa Nsenga-Ngoy
Director, Yog Foundation
Faiths United Youth Network
Krish Raval OBE
Director, Faith in Leadership
Co-Chair, Faiths United Youth Network
Venerable Bogoda Seelawimala
Head of the London Buddhist Vihara
Director, Gurdwara Aid
National Executive Director, FaithAction
Executive Director, Edinburgh Inter-Faith Association
Shahien Taj OBE
Executive Director, Henna Foundation
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