George Floyd's last words 'have become our rallying cry' - Church leaders

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Christians across Britain and Ireland were united on Tuesday night via an online service to mark the first anniversary of the murder of George Floyd.

Entitled 'Doing Justice: A Service of Reflection on the Anniversary of the Murder of George Floyd', the evening was a time to remember Floyd and also to encourage Christians to become change makers through scripture, poetry and prose.

Leading the service in Brixton, South London, was black theologian and writer Mark Sturge who opened the gathering by addressing the need to stand up for racial justice and to "stand against intolerance".

Prominent figures from churches in Britain and Ireland were invited to speak on the impact Floyd's murder had on them and their response to it.

"I thought of George Floyd who died a terrible, racist and deliberately emasculating death like too many other fathers, brothers, sons. His last words have become our rallying cry," said Archdeacon of Croydon, Rosemarie Mallett.

She continued, "I am no longer the same. At that moment a part of me also died on that road. I too was pinned on that street and I will use all my breath to call out racial injustice."

Methodist minister and theologian, Rev Inderjit Bhogal expressed the thoughts he had a year ago surrounding the protests that followed Floyd's death.

"I found God moving among us, when people of all colours came out into the street declaring that we care, when churches, universities and other institutions began to ask serious questions about institutional racism in a way they never did before. Yet, I felt sad that we needed to wait until another horrible death to get there," he said.

Local youth worker Dionne Marie White shared how the murder affected her.

"As a youth leader and mentor, the murder of George Floyd sent a wave of sadness, fear, imposter syndrome and mistrust to those I worked closely with on a daily basis," she said. 

She continued, "It broke my heart to see the changes that had occurred, yet I knew more than ever I needed to be a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold and their biggest cheerleader, all the while fighting an internal struggle of my own, as a mixed heritage young woman who identifies as black. For the first time in 26 years I questioned if I had a place or a voice to speak up against the injustice."

Later on in the service, a thought provoking reflection was offered by General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Rev Lynn Greene.

"This inhumane act of brutality was no isolated incident, yet somehow this arrest, this death, this act of racial injustice on a street in Minneapolis became a pivotal moment for us all. That gasp was amplified, becoming like a megaphone as one man's urgent plea for life and breath unleashed a renewed cry for justice right across the globe," she said. 

She continued, "In the stillness of this global pandemic there was no longer any place to hide, no distractions, not even the soundtrack of normal life to dull the senses. Just stark unavoidable reality."

Rev Mandy Ralph, minister of Annbank and Tarbolton Parish Churches in Ayrshire, delivered a short message on the importance of unity in Christ from Scotland.

"As Christians we are tasked by our lord Jesus Christ to love one another as we would love ourselves and that means loving everyone, friend and stranger alike," she said.

"Embracing diversity and welcoming all people and all cultures. Christ called out injustice, he spoke up for people who were treated unjustly against the authorities at that time. So often I hear 'all lives matter' and of course all lives matter. But they don't matter and can't matter while people turn a blind eye to injustice and inequalities."

The service was closed by the Rt Rev Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark, who gave the blessing.

The service is available to view on Youtube and will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday 30 May.