Church leaders condemn racist attacks on England footballers

Church leaders and leading Christian sports organisations have condemned the racist abuse that was put out on social media following England’s defeat in the final of Euro 2020 last Sunday.

The Church of England‘s General Synod, which was meeting online, said, ‘…we wish to applaud the achievements of the England men’s football team in reaching the final of Euro 2020. The multicultural composition of the team and the sense of mutual support which they exude is a model for the whole country. As officers of the General Synod we wish to express our deep disappointment and concern that the achievement has been marred by disgraceful racial abuse.’

Churches Together in England’s Pentecostal and Charismatic President, Pastor Agu Irukwu (pictured above) commented, ‘We might have lost a game, but this England team has certainly won the heart of the nation. The racist attacks directed at Jadon Sancho , Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka are reprehensible. We pray that God will forgive the perpetrators and that they will come to know the love of Christ.’

Archbishop Angaelos, CTE’s Orthodox President (pictured below left), said on his Twitter account, ‘Racial abuse is appalling, abhorrent and reprehensible.’ He quoted Nelson Mandela’s words, ‘No person is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin…  if people can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.’

CTE General Secretary Rev Dr Paul Goodliff (pictured above right) said, ‘Sadly, the racist abuse of England’s footballers shows how deeply ingrained racism is in some parts of our society, and demands of us a re-doubling of our commitment to a racially just society. Scripture encourages us to ’not grow weary in doing what is right’, and whether it is racist abuse in sport, systemic disadvantage in the work-place, or injustice in the criminal justice system that sees disproportionate numbers of young black men in prison, we’ll keep on calling it out, and working and praying for a society where racism is never tolerated — and, yes, that work begins in our own Christian communities.’

Bishop Moses Owusu-Sekyere, Co-Chair of CTE’s Racial Justice Working Group said, ‘It’s appalling to read on social media the racist comments aimed at our young England players. This is unacceptable! We can and we must do better than this.’

Warren Evans, CEO of Sports Chaplaincy UK (pictured below), said, ‘We need, as a church, not just to make statements, but to practically demonstrate the love and compassion of God, to promote a culture where all are valued and welcomed. We continue to stand with those who have experienced abuse of whatever kind within the community of sport, at whatever level.’

Leading Black British Academic and Theologian Professor Robert Beckford commented that, ‘These racist incidents, while representing the views of a minority, cannot be separated from the coloniality of the education system or the failure of leading politicians to support anti-racism in symbolic and legislative forms.’