10 June 2020

Written by Gareth Sorsby and Si Johns (Joint CEOs)

Psalm 103:6 The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.    

As a local Christian charity, wishing to demonstrate God’s love for all people and communities, YMCA Exeter stands in solidarity with everyone working peacefully to end racism and discrimination. To this end, we wholeheartedly agree with these excellent reflections from Kevin Washington, president and CEO of YMCA of the USA.

The recent death of George Floyd in the USA has sparked anger and action globally. No life should ever end this way. To be clear, people from all ethnicities have died at the hands of the police, but statistically in the USA a person is three times more likely to die in this way if they are black.

This is not just an issue limited to the United States. Here in the UK our history is blighted by racism. You are now nine times more likely to be stopped and searched if you are a young black individual than if you are white. We believe it’s time for change.

YMCA Exeter believe that as Christians following a God who personifies love and inclusion, we must seek to be at the forefront of change; we cannot and must not stay silent. As Dr Martin Luther King said, “there comes a time when silence becomes compliance”. We must not settle with the neutrality of being “not racist”, we must actively work for a society where true racial equality is a given, not just a longed for ideal.

The way in which young people have united across the globe to stand against this injustice and lobby for change is testament to their hunger for a more unified world. We stand with them and advocate for peaceful and non-violent dialogues that lead to lasting positive change.  

We believe in a God who has created each of us, equal and individual (Genesis 1:27), fearfully and wonderfully made in his image (Psalm 139:14). Yet societies have consistently found ways to suppress others and create systems and structures that, in their very nature, favour a white skin tone.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus challenged social norms and refused to allow discrimination to prevent his message of love and reconciliation reaching all people, whether that be towards a Samaritan women or outcast lepers. Indeed, Jesus’ death and resurrection sought to reconcile all people to God. None were excluded, none any more or less worthy. It is integral to recognise that one of the first groups of Christians, recorded at Antioch in the book of Acts, was diverse and included an Israeli, a Libyan, a Turk and Simeon of African descent. God does not discriminate.

It can be a struggle to know how best to immediately respond to an issue as seemingly large as this. We must begin by educating ourselves and by examining our own lives, our own organisations, our churches, our families and friendship groups; to seek out any parts of discrimination and prejudice that might exist, no matter how seemingly small or historic and then repent of this. Repenting means to recognise the issue, change our mindset and by doing so change our behaviour. As we tackle our own prejudice we are empowered to stand up against any attitudes or acts of racism we encounter in the world around us.

In the words of Nelson Mandela: “No one is born hating another because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite”.

Finally, please join us in praying for the USA, our nation, and the rest of the world, in asking for forgiveness for our past actions as well as our current mindset, for God’s peace and protection over the ongoing protests, for a movement of positive change, for hearts of compassion for others and for a spirit of reconciliation amongst us all.

Read more about YMCA’s history with African American Communities here.