Restoring hope through the work of justice
In facing up to the harm caused by racial injustice, we hold before us the promise of God’s love and the healing of relationships. The Prophet Isaiah speaks of God gathering and comforting all people who have been lost and have experienced suffering. In the Magnificat, Mary reminds us that God never abandons us and that God’s promise to us is fulfilled in justice.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. Stephen was a young man growing up in south-east London with big dreams for his future. His life was tragically cut short when, on 22 April 1993, he was murdered in an unprovoked racist attack. The pain of his family and the wider community was compounded by serious failings in the investigation of this crime, which were later exposed in the Macpherson Report. In his memory a foundation has been established to support and inspire young people to have a bright future. Stephen’s mother, (Baroness) Doreen Lawrence, says of this work:
“Justice for Stephen is about all of us, every one of us, in society having justice. There are still too many young people who do not have a sense of hope, who just don’t get the chance to live their dreams. I want all our children and young people to feel inspired, be confident and have hope in their own future. We are building hope, but there is more to do.”
It is easy to feel hopeless as we are time and again reminded that we live in a fractured society that does not fully recognise, honour, and protect the human dignity and freedom of all human beings. An alignment of love of God, love of all our human family and love of justice are deeply needed for hope and healing. God calls us to continually live into hope, trusting that God will be with us in the midst of our individual and communal liminal space – on the threshold of what has been and what is, while yearning for what is yet to be.
Fr Bryan Massingale, one of the world’s leading Catholic social ethicists and scholars in racial justice, reminds us of his hope and challenge:
“Social life is made by human beings.
The society we live in is the result of human choices and decisions.
This means that human beings can change things.
What humans break, divide and separate,
we can with God’s help,
also heal, unite and restore.
What is now does not have to be.
Therein lies the hope and the challenge.”
please teach us to go inward
to be grounded in your loving spirit
so we can go outward in wisdom and courage
to always choose the path of love and justice.
- Many of the global protests that took place after George Floyd’s killing were led by young people, some of whom were connected to the Church. How can we use their ardour for racial justice to bring about change in the Church?
- What substantive actions should have taken place after Stephen Lawrence’s killing? Why do you think they did not occur?
- How did you respond to the killings of Stephen Lawrence and/or George Floyd? How have these tragedies encouraged you to take a greater interest in racial justice?
Go and Do
- Racial justice will only take root in churches if they take the issue seriously. What tangible changes could your church make to connect to the global movement for racial justice?
- Racial Justice Sunday is marked annually on the second Sunday in February. Encourage your church to celebrate this day, which is committed to fighting for justice, equality and dignity in church and society.
- Stephen Lawrence wanted to become an architect. Why not mentor or support a teenager like Stephen, so that she or he will be able to realise their dreams.