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Freiburg forum urges church organisations always to factor in racial justice

12 January 2024

Andreas Weise 

RACIAL justice must be a “regular and compulsory topic in all relevant deliberations and decision-making processes on all levels of Church organisation”, an international ecumenical conference has concluded.

The International and Ecumenical Racial Justice Conference, held in Freiburg, in Germany, from 9 to 11 November, was attended by 99 people, representing 32 nationalities, from the diocese in Europe, the Anglican Communion, and partner Churches and organisations. A central motif was the kaleidoscope, and one aim was acknowledgement of “the multi-dimensionality of human identities making a colourful whole”, said the Archdeacon of Eastern Europe and Germany and Northern Europe, the Ven. Dr Leslie Nathaniel, who chairs the diocese in Europe’s racial-justice group.

“The community in a chaplaincy in Europe invariably includes expatriates and people who voluntarily make their living in a ‘foreign’ land, sometimes temporarily and at times permanently,” he wrote in a reflection on the gathering. “Constituting our communities, we also have migrants, refugees and other groups of people who have left their homelands, often under duress. This wide diversity in terms of ethnicities, cultures, social status, languages and conditions under which they find themselves in the European context, poses both challenges and opportunities.

“Among the challenges are the subtle or not so subtle barriers that exist between individuals and groups in our churches. The great opportunity that it offers on the other hand is that we can give flesh and blood to truly being the body of Christ where no one is considered an alien or stranger, but each person is equally a member of God´s household with dignity and space assigned to them.”

Among the speakers was the president of the Healing of Memories Global Network, Fr Michael Lapsley SSM, from South Africa, who spoke of being “bombed because of my theology”. As an anti-apartheid activist, he lost both hands and one eye when he was sent a letter bomb.

The first day of the conference was the anniversary of Kristallnacht, in Germany, in 1938, and participants joined in a vigil at the Jewish memorial in the heart of the city. They also heard from the general secretary of the International Council of Christians and Jews, Anette Adelmann.

The concluding statement included a call on Churches to “endorse, own and increase efforts, which have been promoted by a few for many decades, to move from vision to mission, not only paying lip service to equality and justice, but living it”.

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