Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy, and of those who are being crushed and oppressed. (Prov. 31:5,8-9)
A century since the changes Frank helped to bring about to prevent slavery from being reintroduced to East Africa, and longer still since Wilberforce’s hard-won reforms, we are still seeing terrible acts committed against black and ethnic minority people – and the cry for profound change is as strong in God’s heart as it has ever been.
(See for example, https://ruachministries.co.uk/the-spirit-of-protest-a-nelson-mandela-moment/) Because some of these abusive acts are now filmed, of course, atrocities such as the murder of George Floyd, which has caused the whole world to shudder with horror, have become the pivot point of so much pent-up tension, bringing to light the wrongs of so many countries, including those that have been so shockingly guilty of colonial abuses. We cannot, of course, limit these atrocities to the colonial powers and to America.
Praise God that there are still news media who are willing to circulate such video clips. How we need to pray that nothing will curtail these vital press freedoms in America, as they have done in countries such as Russia, China, Turkey and Iran. The pressure for real and lasting change is reaching a crescendo, and there is much to pray into here as the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement develops.
There is certainly a strong push for nations to explore the wrongs of the past, and we are seeing a shift in perceptions and responses. It behoves us to discern the roots and nature of the groups at the forefront of these things. Some of them are certainly inspired by God – and some, equally as certainly, are not. God’s intention is for His Kingdom to come and His Love to rule. Pray for His justice to flow like a river and His righteousness, like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos. 5:24)
I happened recently to come across a report concerning the giant hogweed. It is an invasive coloniser, and contact with its sap can lead to severe blistering that recurs over years. It is not native to our part of the world, but was intentionally introduced as an ornamental plant. So many people have been severely injured by this plant that, with hindsight, it is obvious that it should never have been imported.*
What a potent symbol of Western colonisation the giant hogweed is; so many have been affected and enslaved by the poison of empire greed. So many lives have been lost and so much injury has followed in our wake. How deeply we need to repent! We certainly cannot assume that this has all been done in one go. England has, in fact, only very recently (2015) ceased to benefit from slavery. (Even now, as we all know, slave gangs are still operating wherever they can get away with it.) After all the opposition that William Wilberforce experienced from landowners and MPs alike, see this article in the Guardian: Let’s put an end to the delusion that Britain abolished slavery.
At a memorial service for George Floyd, Dr Scott Hagan urged communities, universities, politicians, educators and religious leaders to repent, and to act in such a way as to change America’s narrative on race and power, by becoming ‘gatekeepers of mutuality and diversity and mercy.’ Memorably, he also prayed something we can make the prayerful refrain of our whole being: ‘Change our hearts until they match Your heart, Lord.’
(If anyone is interested in finding out more about Dr Hagan himself, this article introduces him.)
Father, in the violent wake of George Floyd’s death under the knee of a policeman, thank You that the world is facing up to the need to reform racially prejudiced institutions. May we as individuals face anything that we need to. Use the media to cover the issues strongly, sensitively rather than sensationally, and in such a way as to provoke the best kind of response.
Thank You that black and white Americans alike are seeking to address more fully the great wrongs associated with the slave trade and the founding of America. We pray for each one of the former colonial powers to do the same, especially the UK, France, Portugal, Spain, Holland, Germany and Belgium, for where they could have advanced Your Kingdom, they were far more intent on advancing their own, and were guilty of great cruelty and greed.
Father, racism and its associated conspiracy theories that are being seeded around the world like noxious weeds are causing such damage and confusion. You are the Gardener, and from Your vantage point, You see and know the full extent of where and how they are wreaking havoc. We cry out to You that they be exposed, and once exposed that people will have the grace to acknowledge their misplaced beliefs, and to let go of that which fuelled and sustained them. Root them out we pray in Jesus’ name! Mitigate the damage caused, and heal the wounds we pray.
Thank you, Lord, for all whom You are empowering to see more clearly, to feel more deeply and to understand more fully. May we, Your people, be discerning in the stands that we take, and bolder in the witness that we bring. Thank you for seasons that are changing, and the redress You are seeking to bring to long-standing injustices. We join our ‘Amen’ to the many who are praying for the wheels of justice to turn swiftly on behalf of those who are being crushed in body and spirit right across the nations. In Your name we say, ‘Remove the obstacles and stumbling stones that have brought shame and misery to so many.’ Change our hearts, Lord, till they match Yours.