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Inclusion and Diversity Blog Post - Can these bones live…

Posted Fri, 06/04/2021 - 09:54 by Robert

Can these bones live…

The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!  This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” Ezekiel 37: 1-6

I have officially been in post for three weeks, and I must confess that I am still very much finding my way in understanding what the inclusion and diversity programme will look like, and if I am honest, my heart’s desire is that it will be shaped by the people who want transformation, because unless things change, it will just stay the same, and this is clearly not an option.  

The COVID-19 pandemic and the death of George Floyd (amongst countless and nameless others) somewhat feels like we have been living in the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37:3). It is no surprise then that Christians and Jewish communities have been forced into a self-reflective mode, looking within to see how we may consciously and unconsciously be harming others. We profess that ‘all are made in the image of God’ (Gen 1:26), and yet the perpetual ill-treatment of people from Global Majority Heritage backgrounds is a clear indication that ‘some’, not ‘all’ are treated as being made in the image of God. The beauty of our faith traditions is that they offer hope, and in the valley of the dry bones we must prophetically speak and revive dry broken bones and weary souls caused by systemic racism.  

The Church of England’s report From Lament to Action and the report from the Commission on Racial Inclusivity in the Jewish Community (Board of Deputies) were both published at the same time, in the lead up to the first year of George Floyd’s death (25th May) and Stephen Lawrence day (23rd April), both memorable dates.  

Upon reflection, I was aged 10 when Stephen Lawrence died and can remember it on the news and especially my grandma who was a teacher at the time crying and deeply saddened. At the time of the Public Inquiry (1998), I was in secondary school and would often take the bus to Elephant & Castle to continue my journey home and can recall the mass crowd protest and feeling upset and angry at how the accused could somewhat get away with this horrific murder, a system set-up to fail so many people who look like me.  

At the time of George Floyd’s murder, the system (the valley) remains very much broken (dry) (even more so in my opinion), and not a lot had changed with regards to systemic racism, but life for me had. I was now mum to a black baby boy who was at the time 6 months old. It suddenly dawned on me, fear that in the not so distant future, like so many black parents, I will have to sit my son down and tell him that ‘God loves us all, and yes we are all made in the one image of God, but our world system is broken, and sometimes you have to be mindful that the colour of your very beautiful skin, could potentially land you in trouble'. This conversation goes against the grain of everything that I believe in. My fear is that I will also at some point have to encourage my child to abandon his individuality, to become a conformist, because I don’t want him to be at the mercy of people, who have already labelled him, and that broken systems have created broken people who can harm others intentionally and unintentionally.  

Another side of me is somewhat hopeful that at the time of this conversation with my son, things will have improved, and it would reflect how the world has changed, how we are all truly made in the image of God. Hopeful that as the Revd Les Isaac said in his address at the CTBI’s memorial service for George Floyd, ‘his death gave the world a panoramic view of the racial injustice that so many have been subjected to, and we cannot keep silent’.  

The reports from the Board of Deputies and the Church of England call for intentional and proactive attitudes to inclusion and diversity in all spheres and structures, and I sincerely hope that this marks the beginning of a shift in tackling systemic racism and reviving dry bones. As communities of faith, and especially those with structural powers we must be intentional if we are to transform the world as it is, to the world as it should be, in every space we have the privilege to sit in, we must look and ask ourselves does this space reflect the image of the children of God or is this just a room of people who look like me. If it is the latter, we must not only speak out but proactively change things, as it is only then we can begin to see and experience true transformation.  The recommendations of these reports cannot implement themselves; this is our responsibility, a responsibility that should become a habit if the dry bones are to come alive and we are to begin to heal all those weary souls subjected to racism, prejudice, and discrimination both within our communities and wider society.   

Theo Shaw

CCJ Inclusion and Diversity Project Manager