On the 30th anniversary of the death of Stephen Lawrence, two London Bishops have urged people to choose hope and work for a better world. In statements issued today, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark, and the Rt Revd Dr Rosemarie Mallett, Bishop of Croydon, acknowledged how far society, police and the Church still must go in overcoming racism.
Bishop Christopher, who is a member of the House of Lords and chairs the Southwark Diocese Racial Justice Committee, said: “Today marks the 30th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. When Stephen died, so many of us hoped that it would be a wake-up call for our society. We hoped that we would never again have to witness such tragic violence, nor such failings in our police force.
“Stephen’s death marked the beginning of a change in our society – a change that we are still living through. Progress always takes longer than we think it will, but as Christians we are called never to lose hope and to always keep striving for a better world, with urgency and vigour.
“On this Stephen Lawrence Day, let us all take the opportunity to pray and reflect on Stephen’s life and legacy of both change and hope – and let us commit to building a future where our differences are celebrated and all are respected and valued.
“Our hearts go out to Baroness Doreen Lawrence and Stephen’s family with gratitude for all they continue to do to promote racial justice.”
“Stephen Lawrence was a friend, a brother, a son, a neighbour, taken from us by hatred and racism,” added Bishop Rosemarie, who leads on racial justice issues for the Diocese. “His family and community still feel his loss deeply and our hearts still break for them – and for all families who today are missing children, friends and family members because of racially-motivated violence.
“We believe that God delights in our diversity and that we are called to love and respect one another. We believe that we are all equal in the eyes of God, and that all of us equally deserve protection and safety on our streets – as well as justice when we are harmed by others. And yet, thirty years on, the stark reality is that all are not equally safe on our streets – and all do not receive the justice that they deserve.
“Thirty years on, Stephen’s day is a stark reminder for us all of how far we still have to go. In particular, the Baroness Casey Review shows a concerning lack of progress in improving standards in our policing – and we still hear every week the stories of those for whom racism is a daily oppression. The Church is not immune from these problems. Here in Southwark, we are working hard to address our own issues of inequality and injustice. We have committed ourselves to action and accountability through our Anti-Racism Charter and the ongoing work of our Racial Justice Committee.
“Hope means choosing not to give up, not to settle for less than that to which we are called. Our police can do better, our Church can do better, our communities can do better – our society can be better as long as we refuse to give up, as long as we choose hope and commit ourselves to building a better way.”
Guy Hewitt, Director of Racial Justice for The Church of England shared a reflection in the Church Times and the below prayer.
A prayer for Stephen Lawrence Day
Almighty God, the source of all hope and justice,
Your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ brought us good news of love offering equality and inclusion of all,
You call us to radical action and not just empty words,
To stand-up against racism and all forms of discrimination against all our brothers and sisters.
On this the 30th Anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence,
We pray for the family and friends of Stephen who still experience his loss,
We ask for forgiveness when we close our eyes, ears, and hearts to the injustices of those around us,
We call on those in authority to act against institutional racism that is part of everyday life and afflicts too many people of Global Majority Heritage,
We ask you to continue to bless the work of the Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation that keeps his memory and legacy alive.
God of grace, mercy, and love,
Move us to neighbourly love to all those who are hurt, angry and feel abandoned,
Release us from our self-centredness so we can help heal a world in pain,
Let us, your Church, speak out against discrimination against all those you created and love,
May our voices amplify the shouts for justice and equality for all.
We ask this in the name of the God of love, justice, and mercy who calls us to share peace, freedom, and liberty with all.