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Wednesday, February 24, 1999 Published at 18:15 GMT


World churches welcome Lawrence report

The Archbishop of Canterbury: Racism in the powerful is 'especially offensive'

By News Online's Alex Kirby

Church leaders in Britain and abroad have combined to welcome the Macpherson inquiry report into the death of Stephen Lawrence.

The archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, said: "My special prayers remain with the Lawrence family, who have conducted themselves with true Christian dignity and courage throughout this harrowing ordeal".

"But the report also raises major questions about institutional racism and its impact on the work of the Metropolitan Police.

"Racism anong those in positions of power and authority is especially offensive, as it threatens the principles of both equality and justice.

"I and my fellow bishops feel deep compassion and sympathy for the disquiet and pain which many in ethnic minority communities will now be experiencing."

The place where Stephen Lawrence was murdered is in the Anglican diocese of Southwark.

The bishop of Southwark, the Right Revd. Tom Butler, said: "I meet black people from our south London churches almost every day.

"I know from what they tell me that the Stephen Lawrence tragedy was not an unfortunate, isolated incident.

Police not alone

"I am not surprised at the report's comment on the 'pernicious and institutional racism' found within the police service.

"But the police alone cannot solve this problem. Whoever killed Stephen Lawrence is at least partly the product of our environment and community.

"It is time for all of us to shoulder our share of the responsibility. No institution, including the church, has so far done enough to combat racism."

The murdered teenager had been baptised into the Methodist church, and his parents are still practising members of a Methodist congregation in Plumstead, in south east London.

[ image: Southwark cathedral Police racism 'no surprise']
Southwark cathedral Police racism 'no surprise'
The Revd David Deeks, a senior offical at Methodist headquarters, issued a statement before seeing the report.

He said: "The Methodist church stands solidly with the family of Stephen Lawrence in their tragedy and in their long quest for justice.

"The church believes that racism, in all its forms, is a sin. We are grateful to Sir William Macpherson for his broad and clear definition of institutional racism.

"We call on groups and institutions in our country, including all the churches, humbly to review their attitudes, procedures and institutional arrangements in the light of this definition."

The Geneva-based World Council of Churches, which represents most of the main Protestant denominations, told BBC News Online: "We welcome any report which seeks to expose institutional racism".

Help to challenge racism

"The WCC has declared racism a sin, and has financially supported groups which sought to combat racist practices and policies in institutions.

"In 1995 the WCC's special fund to combat racism made a grant to the Lawrence family for the expenses of their legal action for a private prosecution.

"In 1996 the fund also made a grant to the Black Police Association for its work in tackling racism within the police service itself."

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