Edinburgh 2010 director says suspension is ‘human rights violation’

The international director of Edinburgh 2010 has slammed the University of Edinburgh’s decision to suspend him following accusations of bullying and intimidation.

Dr Daryl Balia was employed by the University to coordinate preparations for the conference, held in Edinburgh this week to mark 100 years since the World Missionary Conference.

He was suspended after he complained that he was being discriminated against because of his colour by members of the conference leadership, namely the Church of Scotland.

Edinburgh University, a close collaborator of the Church of Scotland, said Dr Balia had been suspended over “defamatory and inflammatory” comments he made to colleagues about both institutions.

His suspension explicitly barred him from attending the Edinburgh 2010 conference.

Dr Balia announced his formal resignation as international director of Edinburgh 2010 on Saturday, but contended he was being “forced to resign” after members of the conference leadership refused to communicate with him and excluded him from meetings and communications.

Delivering a statement to reporters outside the conference venue at the University of Edinburgh’s Pollock Halls, Dr Balia said his suspension showed that the situation for Christians of colour had not moved on since the World Missionary Conference in 1910, when only a handful of participants were from outside of North America or northern Europe.

It was at that conference that Indian Bishop V S Azariah brought attention to the gulf between foreign missionaries and indigenous believers with his famous appeal, “Give us friends”.

Dr Balia said it was “unfair” that he had been excluded from the conference and insisted that his suspension was down to the Church of Scotland, rather than Edinburgh University.

He suggested there was a “racial” element to the disciplinary action being taken against him.

In a statement, he said: “I was the token black in a very white machinery. I got dismissed. I still have no idea why it happened nor has anyone told me why.”

He continued: “Both my family and I will be seeking voluntary deportation from Scotland over the coming weeks.

“It is untenable for me to continue bolstering religious privilege at the expense of scientific inquiry when my employer, the University of Edinburgh, is being used as a proxy for financial reasons in an ecumenical exercise of religious propaganda by the Church of Scotland.”

In a statement issued on behalf of the General Council of Edinburgh 2010 said: “They recognise the contribution made by the International Director, Dr Daryl Balia”.

It read: “He has been unable to be present at the conference, while a process involving him and the University, as his employer, runs its course.”

The conference leadership has refused to comment any further on the investigation or Dr Balia’s suspension.