Three of the leading Black churches in the UK, the Church of God of Prophecy (UK), the New Testament Church of God and the New Testament Assembly have joined forces with The University of the West Indies to stage a Symposium on the ‘History, Heritage and Identity’ of people of Caribbean descent living in the United Kingdom.
The virtual Symposium to be held on 12 November 2020 comes at a time of simmering disquiet, protest and debate following the death of George Floyd and resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, and concerns from members of the local Black community regarding the relative silence of Black-led churches in the UK.
Presiding Bishop of the Church of God of Prophecy (UK Trust), Bishop Tedroy Powell has described this Symposium as the first in the group of churches’ Education for Transformation series to connect the Caribbean Diaspora in the UK to its historical roots and to construct the intellectual infrastructure for a high-quality conversation with key influencers in the power structure of British society, including the Church of England.
“We are mindful of the public announcements from the Archbishop of Canterbury on the state of race relations in the UK, and we think the voice of the Afro-Caribbean Churches and Caribbean scholars through The University of the West Indies can greatly contribute to the Church of England’s Racism Action Commission set to commence deliberations in January 2021”,
added Bishop Powell.
Back in July, the UK-based Churches reached out to The UWI, ranked by Times Higher Education as among the Top 20 best universities in Latin America and the Caribbean, to partner in the staging of the Symposium, to which The UWI quickly agreed, providing the main programme content and facilitating the online event via its UWItv global broadcast platforms.
Earlier this month, The UWI also partnered with the University of Glasgow to launch a free online course to investigate the history of British colonial slavery in the Caribbean, and its links to racial inequalities and present-day global protest.
Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, the Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission and renowned historian, will deliver the keynote presentation that draws upon the University’s significant body of research and scholars. He will be joined by Professor Donna Hope, a noted UWI academic on Caribbean Culture and Identity and Dr Luz Longsworth, The UWI’s Pro Vice-Chancellor on Global Affairs.
“At a time when the debate on race and social injustice is uppermost in the minds of people in the UK, this is an insightful conversation that The UWI is pleased to lead, and to build bridges through knowledge and understanding to embrace the correct history of slavery, colonialism, struggle and survival in the West Indies”, remarked Dr Longsworth. “It is a compelling story that can inspire the world”
For Bishop Tedroy Powell and his fellow leaders from the Black Churches, the collaboration with The UWI is also a matter of firm Christian conviction that could mark a profound turning point for race relations and justice in the United Kingdom.
“History has taught us that Protest and Reformation require not only the force of human action, but also the sustaining grace of sound conviction buttressed by knowledge and enlightenment”,
affirmed Bishop Powell.