We recognise that there is deep injustice affecting people of colour. Racism affects individuals but it also is institutional and systemic. That means it is present in and damages all or our communities and churches.
The Diocese of Leeds is a diverse and significant body and has an important part to play in influencing for racial justice and the Common Good.
We can strengthen this by exploring change internally in ourselves, our parishes and our Diocese. Then we can look outwards and seek to influence wider society.
Whilst racial injustice has made the headlines in recent years, we know that experiences of racism are longstanding. Many statements have been made in response to injustice. However, the J&P Commission wants a commitment to racial justice to be more than well-meaning statements and occasional gestures
We also believe that addressing racism is a matter for us all and not just for people of colour. However, we want to begin by listening to the experiences and views of Catholics of colour. So, our first step in becoming an effective and inclusive anti racist organisation is to create a platform for Black and minority ethnic Catholics in the diocese to share their experiences, needs and gifts, with the aim of forming a Racial Justice Action Group. We are only too aware that, as a Commission, we do not reflect the existing diversity within the Diocese.
We have asked Leeds Citizens to work with this group to offer a way of organising which moves from listening to bring lasting change. This will involve training, reflection on current experience, building a team and then developing a plan for action to bring change.
So, we will create – on line or, where it is practical, face to face – listening workshops where your voices and experiences of racism in society and in the church will be heard. We want to get to a better understanding of what life is like for Catholics of colour, and ensure that in the Leeds Diocese all are safe, seen, heard and respected.
Through this process, we believe three things will happen:
• Those who take part will develop their skills, confidence and leadership.
• Our parishes and Diocese will be strengthened and have a more vibrant and clear voice in society.
• We shall see positive change for racial justice in our Diocese and in society.
This is not an indefinite commitment, nor is it a vague effort. We are asking people to join a group with a focus and work with us over the coming months.
We have an important, exciting and practical plan- but we need you, as an individual, family, parish or organisation in order to carry out this plan .
This listening and working together will strengthen inclusion and welcome among us and enable the diocese to have a stronger influence for racial justice and the common good in wider society.