Quakers must tackle racism, says BYM

‘Might a room in Friends House currently named after William Penn be renamed?'

It’s time for Quakers to tackle racism, says Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM), claiming that ‘racism exists among Quakers in Britain and must be tackled at all levels, individually, in their committees and structures and in the church’.

‘Although Quaker commitment to racial equality and racial justice is well recorded, there has been little focus on this in recent years and some language (in minutes and other writings) is outdated,’ BYM trustees said in a statement.

Edwina Peart, the inclusion and diversity coordinator for BYM, who ran an event in November asking: ‘Should Quakers apologise for their role in the Atlantic slave trade?’, said: ‘I think this is an important moment, nationally and globally and there is an appetite, spiritually and politically for discussion and learning on the issue of racial inequality. The question provides a way into exploring the roots of institutional racism.’

Graham Torr, assistant clerk to BYM trustees, said: ‘It is time for Trustees to show visible leadership on this issue – within BYM and more widely – and to be publicly accountable for what we do.’

Acknowledging and addressing racism is ‘a spiritual imperative of this time’, trustees said, adding that they are coming up with proposals for discussion later this month.

Key questions for consideration, they say, include: ‘Might a room in Friends House currently named after William Penn be renamed? He was a significant Quaker in the 17th century, a pacifist and human rights advocate. He spent time in prison for his faith – and he owned enslaved people. Quakers today are working to understand how early Friends reconciled their Quaker values with benefitting from the barbaric slave trade.’

Other steps on racism could be ‘education and training, being accountable, becoming an anti-racist employer, ensuring anti-racism is built into the design of all programmes and activities for Quakers in Britain; and continuing to support work with Quaker meetings and communities on diversity and inclusion as a priority’.

You need to login to read subscriber-only content and/or comment on articles.