On April 22nd1993, a Black teenager, Stephen Lawrence, aged 18, stood at a bus stop in Eltham, South London, with his friend, Duwayne Brooks. A group of white youths appeared and attacked them – for no reason other than they were Black.
As a result of this racist attack, Stephen died.
That was 30 years ago and it began a struggle for Justice that is not yet fully resolved.
Two particular things marked the ensuing 30 years.
The first was that Stephen’s family and friends had to struggle against great odds for Justice.
The investigation into Stephen’s killing by the London Metropolitan Police has attracted a great deal of criticism over the years, with a bungling investigation, a disregard for evidence before them and a scandalous failure by them of transparency on a monumental scale. Despite a Coroner returning a verdict of ‘unlawful killing’, it took the Lawrence family 18 years to secure partial justice when two of the five assailants were sentenced a jailed for the crime. Not everything has been resolved.
The second result of the murder was that in 1995, through the determination of the Lawrence Family to honour Stephen’s name, and assistance from the Methodist church they attended, Racial Justice Sunday was initiated.
Stephen’s mother Doreen (now Baroness Lawrence) has written:
“My fight for justice for Stephen, in many ways, has been a fight for justice for us all, and is driven by a core belief that every person, regardless of their background, should have the opportunity and support to flourish in a society that treats them with kindness, fairness and respect.”
The struggle for that to be to be fully established continues. In 30 years a lot has changed in attitudes towards Black people. The Movement, Black Lives Matter is helping, as are the churches but, as Baroness Lawrence has noted:
Too many young people still struggle to succeed because they are disadvantaged by factors beyond their control, and too many of the institutions upon which they should be able to rely, are still infected with institutional racism and the structures of biasand discrimination that uphold it.”
Inspired by Stephen’s story, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland has taken the Lawrence Family experience as the basis for this year’s theme for Racial Justice Sunday.
In particular, to help people to Remember, Reflect and Respond.
• Remember the importance of racial justice;
• Reflect on human diversity and thank God for it;
• Respond by working to end injustice, racism and ignorance through prayer and action.
To help us to do this, a wealth of material for prayer and reflection has been produced by CBTI which is accessible from their website and through the publication of a book Race for Justice, offering in-depth explorations of how Race matters have been addressed by churches, congregations and individuals over the past 25 years. It is available from Amazon at £9.99
Here is a Thanksgiving from the Resources © CTBI
God of life and love,
In Your infinite wisdom
You created all things to live in harmony.
You choose to make us in the image of the Creator of the cosmos –
Born of the same imagination
And lovingly crafted from the same dust,
You breathed all peoples into being,
Blessing us with different gifts and talents,
A tapestry of cultures and stories
Interwoven into Your story of all creation.
We thank You for our world,
Tired and groaning though it may be,
But it is still beautiful and filled with so much potential
To reflect and display Your Glory.
Help us to work together for the care of our shared home.
We thank You that You have blessed us with each other,
Every nation and community, filled with beautiful and gifted people,
Each called to be fully who You made them to be,
And all called to be co-workers with You.
We thank You for the gift of immigrants and refugees
And the many blessings they bring to our communities.
We thank You for the gift of our young people,
Filled with hopes and fears, dreams and ambitions –
May they inspire and challenge us to be better.
We thank You for those who have been in our communities for many years,
The storykeepers and griots, the history makers and caretakers –
May their experience and wisdom enrich our lives.
We thank You for the diverse nature of Your people,
Each imbued with dignity and each worthy of value and respect.
Thank You for inspiring so many to lift up their voices against the sin of racism.
But we still lament that there are so many voices silenced or ignored,
Shouted over or made to feel irrelevant.
Move in power, God of justice,
So that we would no longer have to witness violence and loss of life,
As with the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence;
So that we would no longer have to witness miscarriages of justice and misuses
As with the unlawful killing of George Floyd;
So that we would no longer have to fight against systems of control and oppression
To make people understand that every human being has dignity
That needs to be seen, recognised and respected.
Lord, we thank You that we can meet together
And give thanks and praise for the progress made,
That we can sing in protest of injustice,
That we can cry out in anguish, giving voice to our lament,
That we can pray in hope together for a better future.
We seek the power of Your Holy Spirit
To guide, empower and sustain us.