By Paul Gutteridge
The images of George Floyd’s final pleas as life was choked from his body by a white police officer in the US have horrified and mobilized millions around the world. Black lives matter!
Tragically, this is nothing new but many sense this time – just maybe – is the beginning of the seismic shift needed to address racism and bring the changes to heal a nation…and the nations.
We recognise that the UK has its own story of racism and colonialism baked into our culture – shaping our conscious and unconscious decision making. From my perspective the frightening reality is, for the privileged (I speak as a white middle-aged man) I can be oblivious to the felt reality our collective decision making has on others.
Even though I am originally from a working-class estate – the fact that I am a white man who had encouragement, a dose of good fortune, and more besides (I am sure) has given me a headstart, when I compare myself with my friends of colour from similar backgrounds. I know some may take issue with this paragraph and I respect your position.
With all that said, how can we make reparations? How can we see change?
What could the antidote be to the malady to racism, sectarianism, classism, and every other oppressive ‘ism’ that runs through the histories of nations and peoples?
To remedy this we will need to address fruit and root – the outcomes, systems, and the hearts of people. It will require a multi-disciplinary array of willing minds but more than that, of willing hearts.
The fruit is challenging enough but what of the heart? I heard it said that ‘the heart of the matter are the matters of the heart.’
Once again, the message of Initiatives of Change is relevant today because it goes to the heart. We start with ourselves – allowing our hearts to be penetrated by the unfettered forces of absolute honesty, unselfishness, love, and purity.
These forces have the power to work on a nation and the nations. We will face uncomfortable truths about how we HONESTLY got to this place and got the power. At whose and at what expense was this achieved? There will be more questions to come…
I believe that IofC has a role. I believe we can adopt the role of a midwife – accompanying people as the ‘new’ is birthed. Holding a space, facilitating a discussion, accompanying anyone anywhere who engages with the conversations that will lead to change. Yes, we will be called upon to accompany those we may not agree with, or dare I say – like. We may be misunderstood – labelled naive at times because we believe that changed people change people…one step at a time. Big doors swing on small hinges.
So, what can we do now? I want to suggest three practical steps we can take as we become part of the solution to remake the world.
Let’s take time to allow the four standards to search our hearts in specific ways. Along with our quiet time, we can draw on the inspiration and insights of others to facilitate deeper thinking. I want to recommend that we listen to an excellent interview with Matthew Freeman (an IofC friend from the US) on ‘Unconscious Bias.’ You can listen to it by clicking here and will help us understand how we unconsciously categorise people and the world around us. Powerful stuff.
Take One Step To Make A Pledge is a new initiative we want to launch that does what it says on the tin. We will eventually be able to post our pledges on the new website – coming soon! What will we pledge to do, in the spirit of IofC, to change something in our own lives to remake the world? For example, we may decide to walk or cycle to reduce our carbon footprint, visit a religious building of a different faith to understand more, engage in conversations and forums with people who hold different political opinions and social perspectives, get involved with community organising …and so much more. This will help break us out of biases and provide opportunities for inspiration and accompaniment.
Finally, we can move from making a pledge to taking a step – action. Many faith traditions understand that faith without action is dead. We want ideas to have legs – as Peter Howard would say.
As the desire for change is growing we must never lose sight of the fact that we are Initiatives of CHANGE. Let us be known as people who are part of the change, not resistance to or reluctance to change. We are called to remake the world – one pledge, one step, one person – one obedient act at a time in honesty, unselfishness, love, and purity.