WelCom December 2021
‘Racism is a virus that quickly mutates and, instead of disappearing, goes into hiding, and lurks in waiting.’ – Pope Francis: Fratelli Tutti, para 97, 2020
In his most recent encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, October 2020, Pope Francis has added to the Church’s history of Catholic social teaching opposing racism. Pope Francis acknowledges the negative impact of closed ‘virtual circles’ of social media and internet sources, which circulate misinformation and create hostility towards different groups of people.
The fifth priority of the Archdiocese of Wellington Synod ‘17, is: ‘Go you are sent…to deepen your bicultural relationship’.
Recommendation 5d states: ‘The Archdiocese continues to provide education about our history, including challenging racism in attitude and practice and developing understanding of mana whenua and its implications.’
The bicultural relationships committee of the archdiocesan Ecology, Justice and Peace Commission, held workshops last month to help archdiocesan staff recognise and address racism, and have common language to discuss this issue.
EJP Commission member and the main presenter Danielle Webb, described how talking about racism can bring up painful memories and emotions for people, and feelings of defensiveness and embarrassment. She explained there is a growing willingness, especially among young people, to reject racism. ‘But this can be confronting to people not used to language now used to describe racism,’ she said.
Awareness of racism locally and internationally has grown as a result of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests and increasing anti-Muslim and anti-refugee actions in our own country, such as the 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks.
Danielle said there is growing awareness about how biased attitudes in the community – which may be expressed as racist jokes, generalisations and stereotypes – can reinforce extreme forms of racism, like violent attacks.
‘It is important and helpful for Church employees and communities to analyse and understand what is meant by terms such as ‘white privilege’ and ‘white supremacy’ so we can better engage and empathise with each other and the wider community.’
Information about this topic will be available in the near future on the EJP Commission’s page on the archdiocese website.