Bismillah. From the Catholic Association for Racial Justice (CARJ), http://www.carj.org.uk with slight editing- their thought-provoking discussion paper is appended below. Comments welcome, here or at the CARJ site.
National Meeting of the Changing Face of Britain programme on Saturday 7 November at Westminster Cathedral, Victoria Street London, SW1
This programme marks the 25th Anniversary of the Catholic Association for Racial Justice (CARJ). The Celebration is an Inter-Faith event and we would welcome the participation of more different community members, so please feel free to circulate the flyer among your networks.
10.30 – 11.00am Tea/Coffee in Cathedral Hall (CH)
11.00am – 12.45pm National meeting on the CFB programme, speakers include:
Rt Hon John Battle Member of Parliament for Leeds West, Chair of the All Party Group on Poverty, Member of the International Development Select Committee
Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Church of England Vicar at Holy Trinity Dalston and All Saints Haggerston and Chaplain to Her Majesty the Queen
Dr Usama Hasan, Senior Lecturer at Middlesex University and Imam at the Al-Tawhid mosque in Leyton (CH)
12.45 – 1.30pm Lunch in Cathedral Hall
2.00 – 3.30pm Mass in Cathedral with Most Rev Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, other Bishops and clergy
3.30 – 4.00pm Tea/Coffee in Cathedral Hall
4.00 – 5.00pm Event hosted by Young People on the Changing Face of Britain theme, with music, presentations, debate (CH)
We have invited all communities to participate in the Celebration including people from parishes, religious communities, other Christian denominations, other Faith communities, schools, civil society, politicians and the media.
The Changing Face of Britain Discussion Paper
1. The Changing Face of Britain Programme
During 2009, to mark its 25th Anniversary, CARJ is organising a Programme of local events culminating in a national celebration at Westminster Cathedral on 7 November 2009. The Programme will explore the theme: The Changing Face of Britain.
The Programme will have a twofold aim, relating to the theme. It will:
celebrate the ways in which the Church and the wider society have changed for the better over those 25 years
attempt to read ‘the signs of the times’ and discern in our the new situation the challenges that we are called to address in the future.
The Programme will also include a 25th Anniversary Appeal for funds for the future work of CARJ.
The Programme was launched at the celebration of the feast of St Martin de Porres on 1 November 2008.
2. Celebrating What Has Been Achieved
CARJ wishes to acknowledge and to celebrate all that has changed for the better over the past 25 years and the progress that we have all made toward becoming ‘a truly diverse Church in a truly diverse society.’
overt discrimination has been made illegal and largely banned from mainstream society
people of different backgrounds live and work in all sectors of society
educational disadvantage is being steadily overcome
our churches and schools are communities of every language, nation, colour and culture.
The Race Relations Act 1976 and the CRE are being replaced by a new Single Equalities Act and the newly formed Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
3. Future Challenges We Face
Some of the challenges we face in the coming years may seem obvious. However, we need to look below the surface, to read the signs of the times and to discern what role we are called to play in our developing society. The following are some of the issues we will wish to reflect upon and the groups who may need our support:
Second and third generation black British
The riots of the early 1980s, which were examined in the Scarman Inquiry, suggest something of the situation 25 years ago – alienated black youth, racism in the police, over-representation in prisons, high incidence of mental illness, educational under-achievement, the emergence of black consciousness, black power and black pride. Some of this remains, but there has also been positive development. Second and third generation black British today need our support to resist becoming alienated and to achieve their full potential.
Islam in British society
The Muslim community are currently in the forefront of public attention, partly because of terrorism but also because they are visibly committed to their faith and culture which some see as alien. Some second generation Muslims are becoming westernised under their traditional clothing – making their way in school and into jobs across society. Others are experiencing varying degrees of alienation and are sometimes under attack by groups like the British National Party (BNP). Issues of community cohesion often focus around divisions between Muslim communities and others. In some places, Muslim communities are residentially segregated and their physical and geographical separation reinforce cultural differences. Some schools are more segregated than their local neighbourhoods.
Migrants arriving in the UK since 1990 come from many parts of the world – Africa, Asia and Latin America – but especially from Eastern Europe. Some are undocumented. Others are from new accession countries in the EU. They come with a variety of needs and contributions to make to both the church and wider society. Many are not visible but they suffer from sporadic prejudice – including stereotyping and media criticism.
Asylum seekers and refugees
Asylum seekers and refugees are sometimes among the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. They suffer from the memory of past traumas, the current danger of being returned, lack of work or benefits, a variety of prejudices and other problems. There are a growing number of church projects to cater for their needs, but the situation is patchy and sometimes uncoordinated.
The Dalit diaspora communities in the UK reportedly number some 200,000; and they experience caste prejudice and caste discrimination (often reinforcing poverty) in a variety of partially hidden forms.
Gypsies and Travellers
The communities of Gypsies and Travellers are said to be similar in size to the Bangladeshi community in the UK. They are culturally separated because of their life-style and they often suffer very serious levels of prejudice, discrimination and disadvantage. They experience problems accessing health care, problems with the police, educational under-achievement and difficult relations with local resident communities.
Poor, white, vulnerable and marginalised communities
This is not a single group but together make up a very vulnerable and fairly sizeable section of the white population. They are a breeding ground for the BNP and for the growth of the everyday racism of ordinary people. They are seen by some to be the ‘neglected poor’ as compared to black and minority ethnic groups.
4. Issues arising from these and other developments
These and other developments have substantially changed the environment of race relations in the UK since 1984. The following are only a few of these developments:
New equalities legislation
The Race Relations Act 1976 and the CRE are being replaced by a new Single Equalities Act and the newly formed Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC). This legislation and the new Commission will deal with discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation and age.
Community cohesion has emerged as an important concern at local and national level. How do we construct a common identity and citizenship while welcoming and appreciating our diversity? What place do local parishes and schools play in reinforcing divisions or in promoting cohesion.
In some places faith and ethnic communities are residentially segregated and their physical and geographical separation reinforces other differences. Some schools are more segregated than their local neighbourhoods.
Policy on immigration, asylum, terrorism and human rights
Legislation on immigration and asylum is the subject of constant debate. The tension between human rights and protection from terrorism is becoming more and more serious, and in times of recession especially, migrants and asylum seekers are likely to be stereotyped as outsiders and as competition for employment.
Many from black and minority ethnic groups, along with white working class boys, suffer educational underachievement, which locks them into disadvantage and inequality and leads to alienation.
Caste discrimination in the UK
Voice of Dalit International (VODI) and Castewatch UK are only two of the organisations working to highlight the often hidden prejudice and discrimination which Dalits face in this country particularly from within South Asian communities.
Cultural and religious diversity and marginalisation
Some ethnic and religious groups find themselves marginalised, partly by choice and partly by prejudice, cultural segregation and economic disadvantage. This is especially true of Gypsies and Travellers and of some groups in Muslim, black Christian, Jewish and other communities.
Action for local groups
With all these developments and vulnerable groups in mind, the question we wish to ask of one another during our year of reflection and discernment is what role can we best play and what specific initiatives can we take to support vulnerable and marginalised groups, to encourage dialogue and to bring about a fairer and more equal society, where all live together as good neighbours and work together for the common good?
This paper is intended as a discussion starter. This and other materials produced by CARJ will be used to initiate a process of discernment (trying to read the signs of the times) in local groups. Local groups are invited to make the process their own by reflecting on their local situation. The discussion will then have to move on to how the situation is to be addressed.
Above all the aim of these discussions is to enable local groups and the Church nationally to begin fashioning a vision of how we want to work in the coming years to build a truly inclusive church in a truly inclusive society.
5. Get involved
For more information and to find out how you can participate in the 25th Anniversary programme of events and the special Appeal for the 25th Anniversary, please contact:
Catholic Association for Racial Justice (CARJ)
9 Henry Road, London N4 2LH
020 8802 8080