Westminster Achieves Fairtrade Diocese Status

As a Diocese, we celebrated the award with an Online Celebration & Social on Friday 5th March, 11am, during Fairtrade Fortnight 2021. About 60 people from parishes around the Diocese gathered on Zoom to watch a video recorded by Cardinal Vincent Nichols to mark the occasion, with guest speakers congratulating all those involved, as well as encouraging those Parishes not yet signed up to complete the Award. 

Bishop Nicholas Hudson, lead bishop for Justice & Peace, opened the gathering in prayer and offered his own congratulations to everyone involved, thanking CAFOD Westminster, Caritas Westminster and Justice & Peace Westminster for their collaboration in promoting Fairtrade principles and arranging the celebration. 

In his message, Cardinal Vincent Nichols congratulated  the 108 Westminster Parishes that have committed to Fairtrade principles and announced  that Westminster RC Diocese is now the first Fairtrade Diocese in the Country.  The Cardinal also invited the remaining parishes in the Diocese to seek to become Fairtrade Parishes.  This commitment requires a parish to offer Fairtrade coffee and tea when served at Parish meetings and to promote Fairtrade at least once a year in the parish. For information on how to apply visit the CAFOD website: https://cafod.org.uk/Campaign/Fairtrade

Everyone brought along a Fairtrade product to show in a screenshot photograph to be shared in the media afterwards and we all enjoyed spotting the many different types of Fairtrade items on display…

We were reminded that, with the end of lockdown in sight, now is the perfect time for parishes to check their tea, coffee, sugar and biscuit supplies and stock-up with Fairtrade goodies in preparation for permission to serve refreshments after Mass resuming on 12th April!

Invited speakers included Adam Gardner who has worked for The Fairtrade Foundation for more than a decade. He said, “Speaking to Barbara Kentish (former J & P Co-ordinator) and Maria Elena Arana (CAFOD) and others over the years, I’ve got just a sense of how much hard work and dedication, events, conversation, discussion and prayer, too, has gone on by so many across the Parishes and at the Diocese level so massive congratulations! There is an African proverb that says, ‘If you want to fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ This has been a true team effort and truly about going far.”

Fr Joe Ryan, former Chair of the Westminster Justice and Peace Commission, described his own wake-up call forty years ago as to where his tea and coffee came from and the origins of the decision to become a Fairtrade Diocese. Every purchase we make here can have a huge impact on others who are producing goods many miles away overseas. “Even a little can mean a lot.” 

Anne Lamont, a parishioner at St John Vianney’s and volunteer in the Justice & Peace Office, told how Fairtrade had become an integral part of the Confirmation programme, which has helped to embed Fairtrade thinking and activity in the Parish. Young people in the Confirmation group hold an annual Big Brew Weekend with stalls, a raffle and Fairtrade teas, coffees and cakes which they make themselves.

Hilda McCafferty from Our Lady of Fatima, White City, in West London, reminded the meeting of the importance of Fairtrade and sustainability in the fashion industry, which was illustrated in her parish by a Fairtrade Fashion Show, also run by the Confirmation Group.

Among the other parishes in attendance were: St Bede’s – Croxley Green, Our Lady of Lourdes – Acton, St Joseph’s – Bunhill Row, St Marks – Hemel West, Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory – Warwick Street, Our Lady Immaculate and St Andrew – Hitchin, and St Edmund’s – Edmonton.

St Mary’s, Hampstead, was represented by Santana Luis who writes, “Thank you for organising the Fairtrade presentation event and asking me to speak on my journey with the Fairtrade movement for the last fifteen years. It has been a great achievement for our Diocese and a wonderful celebration to be part of the World’s largest Fairtrade city. We are now leading an example for other boroughs, parishes, deaneries, dioceses and other faith communities in the UK to be part of the Fairtrade movement, especially as this year’s themes are focusing on sustainability, circular economy, climate crisis and meeting the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).”

Tony Sheen from CAFOD thanked everyone for their participation, including Parishes who have demonstrated their commitment to Fairtrade as part of the Live Simply Award. He encouraged Parishes who have not yet started this journey to consider signing up. The Award requires us to look at our lifestyles as individuals and as Parish communities, seeking to live more simply, sustainably and in solidarity with those living in poverty. Find out more: https://cafod.org.uk/Campaign/Livesimply-award

Finally, the meeting was closed in prayer by the current Chair of Westminster Justice & Peace, Fr Dominic Robinson SJ.

Watch the Celebration of 5th March 2021

Find out more about Fairtrade in the Diocese of Westminster

Report from the NJPN Networking Day, 27 February 2021 – Interfaith Issues

By Ellen Teague – Independent Catholic News

Interfaith collaboration on social justice issues was celebrated at Saturday’s quarterly meeting online of the National Justice and Peace Network. Among initiatives discussed by around 60 participants were the SVP and Islamic Relief providing relief together after flooding in Kendal, Cumbria, networking of foodbanks in Birmingham, liaison in several dioceses with prison chaplains who are Muslim, and collaboration on Fairtrade Fortnight.

Speaking on ‘Inter-faith Relations in the UK Today’, Dr Harriet Crabtree, Director of UK Interfaith Network, highlighted some campaigns that have had an interfaith dimension: Together for the Common Good, Grenfell and Faith for the Climate. Looking at factors important for good interfaith relations, she singled out the importance of diverse communities feeling valued in society and by the government; also, the media being positive about people of diverse faiths.

The second speaker, Jon Dal Dim, Interfaith Representative of the Foculare Zone of Western Europe, addressed the theme of, ‘Going to God Together’. The Focolare Movement is committed to promoting dialogue between religions, feeling that it contributes to the building of solidarity and world peace. In 1977, in London, founder Chiara Lubich was awarded the Templeton Prize for progress in religion. She presented her experience before leaders of different religions, and when people from other faiths (Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindu, etc.) were the first to step up and offer warm congratulations, she felt it was a sign from God. Chiara felt the Movement had to open itself to dialogue with people of all religious traditions, based on the central importance of love. Love has an immediate echo in the other religions and cultures, because of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” By implementing the Golden Rule, fruitful dialogue can be established. Focolare is active in 183 countries, and its new International President is Margaret Karram, a Palestinian Christian.

The late Brother Daniel Faivre, who set up Westminster Interfaith, was remembered for his 28 years’ work in Southall, West London, bringing about understanding between different faith groups. There were photos of him at the Battersea Peace Pagoda and participating in the annual Multifaith Pilgrimage for Peace in Westminster Diocese, which passed by or entered different places of worship, including Christian churches, mosques and Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh temples. There was always tasty food offered at Sikh temples!

Among the dioceses represented on Saturday were Westminster, Southwark, Arundel and Brighton, Clifton, Hallam, Hexham and Newcastle, Birmingham, Lancaster, Middlesbrough, Northampton and Nottingham. Religious included the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace and the Columbans. Organisations participating were CAFOD, SVP, Pax Christi, Christian CND, National Board of Catholic Women, Seeking Sanctuary, Christians Aware, and the Romero Trust. Participants agreed that Interfaith work can enrich celebration of one world and there is already significant engagement to build upon.

CAFOD reported that a COP26 Faiths Task group meets regularly to plan joint climate action in advance of the November climate talks in Glasgow, which will include an Action Day on 6 November. Faith for the Climate on 11 March has a global interfaith initiative, where places of worship around the world will sound the alarm for the climate. An Ecumenical Climate Sunday project is planned for September, during the Season of Creation, with a national event on 5 September at Glasgow Cathedral, which will be live streamed. There is close liaison with the Vatican’s seven-year plan for implementing ‘Laudato Si’.

Pax Christi is following up on the new international Treaty to ban nuclear weapons, plus a focus on disinvestment from nuclear weapons. It is holding a zoom on 8 March for International Women’s Day. It is also urging more dioceses to use Palestinian olive oil at Easter. “There is a dire situation in Palestine at the moment” said chair Ann Farr “and support is much appreciated”. Some dioceses do this already for there is “huge symbolism to use olive oil from Holy Land.” Christian CND helped prepare the Ash Wednesday online peace liturgy, which was attended by 135 people, and is providing regular online prayers during Lent.

The Archbishop Romero Trust is running its annual Romero Service on Saturday 13 March at St Martin in the Fields, with Sr Gemma Simonds speaking. Saturday 27 March will see Southwark Cathedral hosting a Romero Mass with Archbishop John Wilson as the main celebrant.

On general NJPN news, the NJPN Annual conference is planned to go ahead in Derbyshire 23-25 July on the theme ‘2021: Life on Earth – moment of truth’. Bookings are being taken.

The NJPN Environment Working Group – at its 60th Meeting the week before – reported that 14 dioceses now have environmental leads, as requested by Bishop John Arnold. Three Catholic dioceses have now divested from fossil fuels. Catholic Divestment/Investment Webinars – promoted by Operation Noah – continue to be very good. The latest: ‘We cannot be people who profit from the wreckage of this planet’ was addressed by Bill McKibben of 350.org on 17 February. In the leadup to the May 2021 international UN conference on Biodiversity in China, Columban JPIC international has produced a podcast series. The Lent series on ‘Global Healing’ and ‘Preparing the Future’, the latter organised by the Scottish Laity Network, have had hundreds of participants at each session so far.

Middlesbrough is promoting its Environment Policy and members are attending Boarbank Hall retreats. Hexham and Newcastle is pushing divestment and has a diocesan environmental group, plus being active on asylum seekers’ support, hate crime, youth mental health, and ‘greening our cities’. Westminster recently became a Fairtrade Diocese, and the J&P Commission is networking regularly on Creation issues, Racial Justice, UK poverty during the pandemic, and exploring ‘Fratelli Tutti’ and ‘Laudato Si’. Southwark J&P is involved in Medway Interfaith Action and has a big concern for Racial Justice in schools. Clifton runs a ‘Laudato Si’ Circle and works with a Caritas group on prisoners’ issues. Hallam Diocese is helping street homeless in Sheffield and Chesterfield and is funding some young people to come to the July NJPN Conference.

Bookings are open for the National NJPN Conference 23-25 July 2021, ‘Life on Earth – moment of truth.’ The Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick, Derbyshire

We hope the Diocese of Westminster will be strongly represented at this event. If you have planning to attend or would like more information please contact the Co-ordinator, Colette Joyce, colettejoyce@rcdow.org.uk.

Some bursaries are available for young adults 18-30. Families are welcome as there are creche facilities and separate activities for younger children and teenagers.

Report from West London Justice & Peace Network Meeting, 23 January 2021

Report by Maggie Beirne, West London Justice & Peace Network Co-ordinator

Despite the pandemic, justice and peace work is going strong in West London!

Justice and peace activists in parishes across the west of the diocese normally meet three times a year, and they have now moved to zoom for these get-togethers.  So, on Saturday 23rd January, some dozen or so people gathered from Ealing, Feltham, Hanwell, Hayes, Osterley, Pinner, St Margarets on Thames, Wealdstone and West Acton to discuss their work during the pandemic and their plans for the months ahead.

The invited speaker was Colette Joyce, Westminster’s Justice and Peace Commission Coordinator.  Previous contributors have given presentations on CAFOD, Pax Christi, A Rocha UK, media work, and the Westminster Social Justice and Peace Forums on youth involvement, poverty, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.  Topics are chosen to reflect the breadth of issues of concern to local parish groups. 

Colette provided an update on diocesan justice and peace efforts as we head into the new year including: tackling rough sleeping in central London and free school meal provision; her work on school assemblies and with the Diocesan Education Advisers in preparation for Racial Justice Sunday; online events in relation to Peace Sunday; and preparations for COP 26 and efforts around climate change. She also conducted an informal poll to ascertain levels of support for ten possible Justice & Peace issues and then asked participants what they would focus on next month if they had to pick only one? If forced to choose amongst those mentioned, there was a feeling that priority ought to go to housing/ homelessness, racial justice and human rights. Participants also wanted to include many more issues!

Most of the time at these regular network meetings is devoted to discussing what is happening at parish level – and there is lots!  So, in a round-table report on activities, we learnt that – despite some churches being closed (where the parish priest has tested positive) and/or other parishes restricting numbers of people attending Mass – CAFOD Harvest collections proceeded as planned in many places, and plans are afoot to mark CAFOD’s Lent Fast Day (on 26 February).  Where envelopes cannot be distributed, there has been a push for contactless devices, promotion of online payment options, and active use of parish newsletters/homilies/prayers/saying of Masses to alert parishes to the great need.  

Similar communication tools were used to promote Peace Sunday (17 January) and the excellent work of Pax Christi (www.paxchristi.org.uk), and in preparation for Racial Justice Sunday (31 January), the work of groups like CARJ (the Catholic Association for Racial Justice www.carj.org.uk) is being actively promoted.  On this latter point the resources provided  for Racial Justice Sunday by the Conference of Catholic Bishops of England and Wales (CCBEW (https://www.cbcew.org.uk/home/events/racial-justice-sunday-2021/) were highlighted.  Our own White City parish has shared how they had used homilies and zoom meetings with parishioners to explore racial inequalities and injustices in the church and wider society. 

Most of the people present try to ensure that justice and peace themes are inserted routinely into parish work – e.g. in Advent/Lenten preparations, Stations of the Cross, regular bidding prayers etc.  Quite a bit of this work is also undertaken with or by other parish groups (e.g. SVP, prayer groups) and by way of inter-faith/ecumenical efforts.  For example, most parishes have some involvement in local foodbanks (hosting one, providing volunteers, distributing official vouchers); some offer night shelter support; and nearly all have Fairtrade status, and promote Fairtrade amongst parishioners. 

For some parishes, Fairtrade efforts are their main way of engaging with justice and peace work; in other parishes, it is one of many activities engaged in.  Certainly, the fact that the Westminster diocese is now an accredited Fairtrade diocese was warmly welcomed.  Publicity and activities to mark this milestone have had to be delayed because of the pandemic, but there are now plans being made with the Cardinal to celebrate the achievement in Fairtrade Fortnight 22nd February – 2nd March 2021. This will, of course, also then give West London parishes who are still not accredited Fairtrade parishes an opportunity for a further push on this issue at parish level.

So – justice and peace work is alive and well at parish level! But we know we can always do more – accordingly, there is always a call for more volunteers, and also for strong public messages from the hierarchy & clergy that justice and peace is central to the work of parish life.  The pandemic has constrained us in some regards but has emphasised the value of good communications and inter-action even when our church buildings have to be closed or less used.  Newsletters, accurate parishioner records, streamed Masses, Zoom links, informative websites all contribute to the sense of parishes carrying on God’s work regardless!

There is always so much to do at parish level, and meetings like this West London network one highlight how much is already underway.  They refresh the spirit and resolve, and cheer everyone up!  If readers would like to know more please contact the Commission – maybe there is a Justice and Peace group in your parish?  Or would you like to be the parish contact for such work?  Why not come along to one of the events Colette is laying on to encourage more gatherings like this West London network? 

Saturday, 6th February 2021, 10.00am – 12.00pm
East London Justice & Peace Network
Deaneries: Hackney, Islington, Marylebone and Tower Hamlets
Register in advance with Eventbrite

Saturday, 20th February 2021, 10.00am-12.00pm
Central London Justice & Peace Network
Deaneries: Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, North Kensington and Westminster.
Register in advance with Eventbrite

Monday, 8th March 2021, 7.00-9.00pm
North London Justice & Peace Network
Deaneries: Barnet, Camden, Enfield and Haringey
Register in advance with Eventbrite

Tbc
Hertfordshire Justice & Peace Network
Please contact Colette if you are interested in taking part or helping to arrange this meeting.

Contact Colette Joyce for more information or queries – Mob: 07593 434905 Email: colettejoyce@rcdow.org.uk

Report from 5th December 2020: Westminster Social Justice and Peace Forum – Learning from the Pandemic

Source: Ellen Teague – Independent Catholic News

What is the pandemic teaching us about the call to Justice and Peace? That was the question posed by Bishop Nicholas Hudson last Saturday at the start of an online meeting of the Westminster Justice and Peace Forum on the theme ‘Learning from the Pandemic’. Bishop Paul McAleenan was on the zoom too, along with around 60 clergy, religious and laity. It was great to see such a spread of interest across the diocese – Hertfordshire as well as London – and a few joined in from other dioceses – Southwark, Northampton and Brentwood were the ones I spotted. British Sign Language interpretation was provided throughout by Caritas Deaf Service.

Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, based at Farm Street church and the Chair of Westminster Justice and Peace Commission, led us through the morning event, helping us “to look back at what we have been learning and look at what we can do to rebuild.”

Anna Gavurin, of the Westminster Caritas Food Collective, was the first speaker. She highlighted that soon after pandemic restrictions came in more than 100 projects sprang up immediately. Catholic parishes and schools were well placed to recognise the hardship in their communities. She reported head teachers driving around with food parcels, supermarket vouchers being distributed by at least 120 parishes and schools, and Church foodbanks seeing a fourfold increase in demand. As well as the humanitarian response, she felt the pandemic shone a light on the causes of food poverty – especially people with no recourse to public funds and no access to, or delays to, benefits. Caritas organised training, helping parishes and schools to see what they could do in their local area. The issue of Justice came more and more to the fore in discussions, “challenging us to think why this is happening.” She learnt the extent to which the Church is a vibrant network, ready to respond in a crisis. Also, that the Church has a voice to influence and is using it. Into the future, Caritas Westminster has developed its Road to Resilience programme: www.caritasfoodcollective.org.uk/road-to-resilience-63.php.

Dr Pat Jones, of the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University, talked about one of her brothers teaching in a deprived area of the North-West, and his experience of lessons being disrupted because of a “toast trolley” moving along the corridor outside to feed hungry children. She felt disturbed by that toast trolley and asked, “what has happened to the social safety net?”. Our social and economic systems are broken, she said, and “the pandemic prompts a radical reset for we must not forget what we have seen and heard and must not settle for the old normality.” She highlighted Pope Francis’ call for structural change, with a new emphasis on ‘Social Peace’ “which is built from below”. Pat deplored rising levels of domestic violence during the pandemic and the reduced number of refuges available for women fleeing partners. It was mentioned that the National Board of Catholic Women has responded with its recent publication, ‘Raising Awareness of Domestic Abuse’ and see the work of the Bishops’ Conference at www.cbcew.org.uk/home/our-work/domestic-abuse/.

Fr Richard Nesbitt, parish priest of Our Lady of Fatima Parish at White City, highlighted the issue of racial justice and reported having his eyes opened by listening to the multicultural community in his parish. His parishioners spoke of the lack of black people in leadership roles in the Church; racial imagery in artwork in Church and in cards in the repository; little diversity of musical styles. It was pointed out to him that even in the Church’s charity work there was the danger of ‘white saviour’ syndrome. “Most shocking of all” he said “was where some black parishioners regularly experience rejection by white parishioners” at the Sign of Peace in the Mass. He quoted from US priest, Fr Bryan N Massingale, that, “Catholic Teaching on race suffers from a lack of passion”. He clarified what he meant by saying, “no one can doubt what the position is on Abortion – a major marker of Catholic identity – but Racism is marked by low institutional commitment, being tepid, lukewarm and half-hearted – and so not seen as a core component of Catholic identity.” Fr Richard reflected, “this has been a journey of conversion for me.”

Marcelle Smith, gave a Catholic Schools perspective from her experience as a teacher in Colchester. She has been horrified by some materials used in classes which reinforce systemic racism. She called for more teachers from ethnic minorities and better Racial literacy teacher training. When asked about her hopes for the year ahead, she said, “Justice”.

At a break in the meeting two short videos were played which had won a Season of Creation 2020 diocesan video competition. One was from St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Neasden and the other from St Vincent’s Primary school in Ealing. In both of them participants saw the planting of seeds, bulbs and saplings. In the second a young child hoped, “that our work inspires other children to look after our ecosystem”. WOW! I didn’t even know that word ‘ecosystem’ when I was at school! See: https://westminsterjp.wordpress.com/season-of-creation-video-competition/

Colette Joyce, the Justice and Peace Coordinator for Westminster, reported that the four London dioceses – Arundel & Brighton, Brentwood, Southwark and Westminster – are planning to work together and with CAFOD next year on Climate Justice in preparation for COP26 in November at Glasgow. A Columban sister suggested that the question should be examined, ‘Is Climate Change racist?’

Feedback from groups suggested that the pandemic has highlighted for them the sheer scale of poverty and inequality in Britain; public budget priorities which would put military spending ahead of aid; Racism in society and in the Church; and a new awareness of who keyworkers are and their contribution to the common good of society. “So many people are close to the edge and our society’s fragility has been revealed” said one participant. There was a commitment to greater solidarity with vulnerable people and communities and making use of new technology for advocacy work. “How we connect digitally is really important” said another. Very specifically, there was a call to revisit the relationship between the Catholic Association for Racial Justice (CARJ) and the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Perhaps Racial Justice Sunday should be reconnected directly with CARJ.

Liam Allmark, of the Bishops’ Conference summed up the learning from the pandemic. Quoting Pope Francis, he said, “this is a moment to dream big, act differently and a time to heal”. In his thanks, Bishop Paul McAleenan referred to the latest publication from Pope Francis ‘Let Us Dream’ where the three chapters take the titles – SEE, JUDGE, ACT. This process – sometimes called the Pastoral Cycle – is a key process for Justice and Peace work. The final prayer came from Laudato Si’. Exuberant hymns topped and tailed the meeting, led by Mary Pierre-Harvey, the Director of Parish Youth and the Caribbean Choir at St Michael and St Martin Parish, Hounslow. The gathering aimed to provide some direction for the year ahead. It certainly did!

Presentation by Dr Pat Jones
Building Social Peace

Presentation by Fr Richard Nesbitt
Journey of a Parish Racial Justice Group

A Catholic Response to George Floyd and Black Lives Matter

Article by Ellen Teague, Independent Catholic News

“When you say, ‘I’m not racist’, you deny structural injustice” an African-American woman from the United States told a Westminster Justice and Peace zoom meeting on Friday. More than 65 people joined the meeting, ‘A Catholic Response to George Floyd and Black Lives Matter,’ where Leslye Colvin, speaking live from Alabama, deplored “racially segregated Christianity”. She highlighted the conflict between lived experience in her country and American ideals, saying that Catholic Social Teaching calls for Catholics to demand justice for all our neighbours. She felt “patriotism and faith” is fuelling nationalism in the US, but we must be, “ruled by a love and build the beloved community”.

Leslye lamented the recent killings of George Floyd and three other black people. “They were murdered because of systemic racism” she said; “it could have been me; maybe it will be me the next time.” Seeing colour is not the problem, she felt, but judging people because of colour. Referring to the particular discrimination experienced by the black community, she suggested that, “when you say ‘all lives matter’, you deny our lived experience”. She invited participants in the meeting to become allies and, “take one step at a time, for this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon, for the roots of racism are deep within our societies”. Leslye said she appreciated, “knowing I have brothers and sisters in the UK”.

The second speaker was Baroness Patricia Scotland of Asthal, QC and Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations. She is a dual citizen of the UK and the Caribbean island of Dominica, where she was born, and was the first black woman to be appointed a Queen’s Counsel. She spoke about ‘Black Lives Matter’ from the UK perspective, saying, “US experience is mirrored here – it’s a common global experience”. She agreed that racism is systemic and endemic. Describing herself as a Catholic “of the Windrush generation,” she remembered as a child seeing TV images of black children being hated and shot at in South Africa and asking ‘Why?'” She saw similar images in the south of the United States. “Being black meant I would be spat at, beaten up on way home,” she reported, and “growing up, there was a feeling that black people could not achieve”. However, she was also taught that, “each of us had a gift from God and we have to use it.” 

She felt the Commonwealth has been radical, wanting mixed sport, for example. It has not accepted discrimination, and in 1953, Queen Elizabeth ll described the Commonwealth as a new concept of the best of humankind. The story was highlighted of the queen breaking barriers by dancing with President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana in 1961, demonstrating her acceptance of a new footing between their countries.

Baroness Scotland felt, “our humanity is on trial, and the George Floyd case highlighted this”. She suggested we must reflect on what Christianity means for us? “Christianity is not something we do but something we are?” and she reflected, “there are no races in God’s eyes – just one race, the human race”. She called for the election of leaders better able to address the issue and for prayer and action for racial equality.

The meeting on 24 July was the most ethnically diverse I have been on and with a strong international dimension, with participants from several parts of the United States and the Zimbabwean Chaplain in London. Catholic groups represented included Catholic Association for Racial Justice (CARJ), Newman House Chaplaincy, Caritas Westminster, Catholic Children’s Society, Pax Christi and Columban JPIC. A range of Westminster parishes included Holloway, Royston, Pinner, Finsbury Park, West Green, Twickenham, Eastcote, Euston, and Wealdstone. There was participation from Southwark, Hexham & Newcastle and Clifton dioceses as well, showing the considerable interest in the subject.

Fr Dominic Robinson, SJ, Parish Priest, Farm Street Church of the Immaculate Conception and chair of Westminster Justice and Peace Commission, said “this was an inspiring and challenging evening”. He feels “racial justice is central to Catholic Social Teaching and so to all our lives as Church”. 

The Chair, Suddie Komba-Kono, said she was disappointed with Church silence in the UK over ‘Black Live Matter’. Many seemed to agree, saying in the chat that the Church, particularly priests, have a responsibility to highlight racism as a sin as is done for other social justice issues. “Even black parish priests don’t preach about racism during times when racial injustice takes place, which is very disappointing” was one comment, and “the Church needs to pay attention to ensuring that the clergy and those in leadership positions access ‘Cultural Competence’ training as part of their preparation for leadership and service to the faithful.” Lorna Panambalum, a black teacher, commented that education is key and, “we need to look at the structure of our education system”. She asked, “how are we making sure we know the history of racism in our society and Church?”

Participants agreed we have a special opportunity at this time for learning about structural racism. The Quaker ‘Black Lives Matter’ five-week seminar course was recommended, which has an extensive reading and resource list. It was felt that the Quakers have always been activists on the race issue, being against the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and supporting abolitionist efforts and now their ‘Black Lives Matter’ initiative.

LINKS:

Leslye Colvin at: https://leslyeslabyrinth.blogspot.com/

Article by Baroness Scotland:  https://news.trust.org/item/20200608160407-7o4ug/

Being Black and Catholic + Videos – Produced by Westminster Diocese – www.indcatholicnews.com/news/40033

Black Lives Matter: Learning for Quakers: www.quaker.org.uk/events/blacklivesmatter

The history (and teaching) of racism was addressed in the recent Cumberland Lodge webinar series, with recordings on their website www.cumberlandlodge.ac.uk/project/dialogue-debate-black-lives-matter