The Bishop of St Albans spoke in a debate marking the 75th Anniversary of the Empire Windrush ship to Britain, highlighting the contributions made by Caribbean immigrants and the ongoing need to challenge racism:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, for this important and timely debate. I thank other Members who have spoken so eloquently about the contribution of Caribbean people to this country.
In 1948, we invited Caribbean people to come to this country to help rebuild after the terrible devastation of the war. Some were welcomed; indeed, I have an auntie and uncle who, for 40 years, offered accommodation to people coming from the Caribbean. They did it joyfully and gladly and introduced them, wherever possible, into their Methodist church. However, at the same time there were many instances where they were not welcomed and, sadly, not even welcomed into some of our churches. They experienced appalling racism, which was simply shameful.
We in the Church of England have expressed our regret and shame at the treatment of many people of that Windrush generation. Three years ago, we voted unanimously in our General Synod to apologise for any racism and to give joyful thanks for the wider contribution of the Windrush generation and their descendants to British life and culture. Last week, my most reverend friend the Archbishop of Canterbury announced that the Church Commissioners are setting aside £100 million over the coming years to work with those communities adversely impacted by historic slavery—which, of course, goes way back beyond the specific point on the Windrush generation but is nevertheless part of the same phenomenon.
It is important that we, both as a Church and as a nation, continue to put right the wrongs of history. Perhaps the simplest and most effective way we can do that now is to celebrate the contribution of Caribbean people to Britain. Indeed, a large part of that contribution is seen in the many Caribbean Christian communities we have here in the UK. They have made a unique contribution to the Christian culture of our country, providing pastoral care for a little over half a million British-Caribbean people. They have championed numerous social causes, including the fight against racial injustice and knife crime. With almost three-quarters of under-25s killed in London last year coming from the Afro-Caribbean community, it is important that Caribbean churches continue their important work. We need to challenge our history of racism and celebrate the Windrush generation and Caribbean people in Britain. That is an important first step.
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