Bishop of Doncaster column: Gun attack shows we must fight racism

President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama

By Peter Burrows, Bishop of Doncaster.

Once again America debates the right to own guns in light of nine people being shot at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

It sent shock waves across the world. Underlying the guns debate guns in America is an issue of racism. Barack Obama hopes the massacre may ‘shift how we think about the issue of gun violence’.

That is true, but they still need to combat racially motivated attacks and killings.

One would have hoped, where we live and work in diverse and integrated communities of multi-ethnic and religious groupings, racism would be a thing of the past. Whether in the US or here in Britain this is not the case.

We cannot afford to point the finger at America in the naive belief we are immune and that includes our local communities.

Hate crimes are the curse of the daily lives of many people from Black and Ethnic Minority communities and they stain society which by now should have stamped this out. UK Churches were largely responsible for the Race Relations Act being brought in.

Statements from all Christian denominations show they agree there is no place for racism in Christianity or any walk of life. The belief God created everyone in his own image opposes racism. Churches have not always got this right but are trying to change their behaviour, welcoming people from different backgrounds. We must all try to do the same. It is the mark of a healthy, welcoming and hospitable society that nurtures harmony, support, care and love for all.

In 2004 the General Synod of the Church of England, said in light of the success of the BNP in local elections: “We believe any political movement that seeks to divide our communities on the basis of ethnicity is an affront to the nature of God revealed in creation and scripture and is a grave danger to harmonious community relationships; consequently voting for and/or supporting a political party that offers racist policies is incompatible with Christian discipleship.

“Secondly, we call on all Christians in England to nurture a loathing of the sin of racism and to model the teaching of Christ in loving all our neighbours. Finally, we commit the Church of England to work in partnership with our ecumenical partners, other faith groups, voluntary and statutory organisations, mainstream political parties and all people of good will, in building cohesive communities and affirming our multi-ethnic, culturally and religiously diverse society.”

Christian and faith groups are working to promote these values. I appeal to everyone to be people of goodwill, to combat the sin of racism and help build a multi-ethnic and religious society/world in which everyone can flourish, be valued and be safe.