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Bishop of St Albans cites racism in Roma debate

28 February 2020

GEOFF CRAWFORD/CHURCH TIMES

Janie Codona, a member of the Gypsy community, speaks to the General Synod in February 2019

Janie Codona, a member of the Gypsy community, speaks to the General Synod in February 2019

PARTS of society are “tainted with varying degrees of prejudice” against the Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller (GRT) communities, the Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, has said.

Speaking in a short debate in the House of Lords on Tuesday concerning the House of Commons’ Women and Equalities Committee’s report on GRT communities, Dr Smith asked the Government why it had dropped the report’s education-specific recommendations, and what the Government’s general principles regarding GRT communities’ use of land were.

After giving examples of racism against GRT people, Dr Smith said: “It is complex — there will be a number of reasons for some of those facts — but what is absolutely clear is that it cannot be right if any of it is based on any sort of discrimination based on ethnicity.

“As a Christian country rooted in the Judaeo-Christian doctrine of humanity — that we are all made in the image and likeness of God — this must surely be at the forefront of our thinking.”

He referred to the General Synod’s debate last year on the C of E’s treatment of GRT communities (News, 1 March 2019): “That debate urged the Church to fight against racism and hate crime directed at GRT communities, and to urge the media to stop denigrating and victimising these communities.”

Dr Smith said, however: “My own diocese has been supporting Roma Christians over recent years by providing a chaplain to the Roma community in Luton; and a variety of Christian denominations have offered hospitality and a place for worship.”

Responding on behalf of the Government, Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist said: “The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is therefore leading efforts to develop a co-ordinated cross-government strategy to improve outcomes for these communities.

“Government departments, including the Department for Education, the Department of Health and Social Care, the Home Office, and the Race Disparity Unit in the Cabinet Office, will work together.”

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