As a fifteen year-old I arrived in England from Jamaica to join my parents in September 1968. We lived in Smethwick in the West Midlands. My arrival was five months after the ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech by the then Conservative MP Enoch Powell; and Smethwick was one of the more racially sensitive areas at the time. When Mr Powell included in his speech the words, ‘Like the Roman, I seem to see the river Tiber foaming with much blood’ I doubt he could have envisaged the furore that would ensue.
Growing up in rural Jamaica I was oblivious to the challenges racial difference posed. I knew only that I was a human being made in the image and likeness of God; and so was everybody else. It hadn’t dawned on me that the world was so strongly divided into racial and ethnic groups and that some believed themselves superior to others. I had a lot to learn.
And when on this day, 17 September 1993, the far-right British National Party won its first local election seat on the Isle of Dogs it appeared that the challenges of the 1960s were a recurring racial and political nightmare. More recently as a member of the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group I had the privilege, with others, of encouraging tolerance and cooperation between people of different faiths and ethnicities, and to pray as well as act for all God’s children to live together as one human race.
Creator God, as we struggle to live with the difference you have created, may we your creatures, made in your image and likeness, never give up the pursuit for tolerance, cooperation, peace and prosperity. And in our time, may we speak of and to one another in ways that lead to the good of all. Amen.