The main target of anti-racism is on church statues

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Churches and cathedrals have begun to seriously review their monuments in the face of protests against Black Lives Matter.

The authorities at Westminster Abbey and St. Paul & # 39; s Cathedral have announced reviews, among other things. The abbey and the chapter of Bristol Cathedral have announced changes to their heritage policy.

A window was covered in Bristol Cathedral on Tuesday. It commemorates Edward Colston, the merchant involved in the Atlantic slave trade, whose statue was pushed into the river by demonstrators last week (News, June 12).

The Dean of Manchester, dear Rogers Govender, said Tuesday that the chapter will review monuments in Manchester Cathedral.

“There are two prevailing views: remove any monuments and statues that are considered offensive to slavery, colonialism, or racism. The other view is that they should stay, but should have additional information in addition to existing information to get a more complete picture.

"I felt the need to place such monuments in a museum, but the second view could also work if we remember the past, but add important information to get a complete overview of the background and effects of such a monument . "

He continued: "The Black Lives Matter movement has given the Church of England a sense of urgency about institutional and structural racism."

Bristol Cathedral and St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, made a statement on Tuesday saying: “The fall of the Colston statue on June 7 was a symbolic moment for the city and a signal of change. It is the right time for us to take the measures we have been considering for some time. A cathedral or church should be a place of sanctuary, justice and peace: a place where God's glory is worshiped and God's love is felt.

“The dedication to Colston at two important places of worship has prevented many people from finding peace in these beautiful buildings. These dedications were either removed or covered.

“Removing or covering window panes is also a symbolic moment. It doesn't change the story and it doesn't change the fact that blacks in Bristol, Britain and the world are still exposed to discrimination, injustice and racism. We must not be distracted by the work that needs to be done. However, we hope that this shows our renewed sense of urgency to address these issues and really be a church for all. "

A former employee of the Bristol and Winchester cathedrals, who did not want to be named, said Colstons was not the only controversial monument. The cathedral's cloisters are "full of monuments to people involved in the slave trade". He also referred to the statues in the chapel of Winchester, Ecclesia and Synagoga: the first with eyes open, the second a Jew with eyes closed, symbolizing the belief that the Jews had not seen the light of Christ.

He said: "The removal of some monuments may have taken a long time, but it is important that both sides of the debate do not shout at each other. They must be in each other's shoes."

On Thursday, the Bristol Post reported that two gravestones on the grave of a slave buried in the churchyard of St. Mary’s, Henbury, had been destroyed. The two gravestones, which mark the remains of an 18-year-old named "Scipio Africanus", were smashed. On the stone slabs nearby there was a message with chalk that said, "Now look at what you did to me. Stop protesting. Leave Elliott's grave alone. Put Colston's statue back, otherwise it will get really hot. "

WILLIAM AVERY / TOGETHERThe two headstones on the grave of a slave, known as "Scipio Africanus", in the churchyard of St. Mary & # 39; s, Henbury

It is believed that the graffiti on the now covered grave of the music hall singer G.H. relates. Elliott, who used to appear in black letters. The Avon and Somerset police are believed to be investigating the attack.

The Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, said: "We do not want to take this invisible attack on one another." The opportunity is to really show the country and the world that we are a city that has the ability to live with differences. I just hope and pray that this is the way we go. "

Following the protests against Black Lives Matter, the Dean and the Chapter of Westminster have announced a review of the abbey's monuments to reflect the “attitudes of our time” and have undertaken a comprehensive re-evaluation of more than 3,000 graves and monuments. These include the tomb of Queen Elizabeth I, a patron saint of the early slave trade, and a memorial to a former prime minister, William Gladstone, who was accused of defending slavery on his father's behalf.

Possible plans to change the signage next to monuments and change audio guides to reflect controversial stories have not been confirmed by the abbey.

In a statement on Tuesday, the abbey said: “Over 3,300 people have been buried or remembered at Westminster Abbey, which reflects their place in the heart of national history. The many monuments that date from the 13th century to ours also reflect the judgments and attitudes of the time when these commemorations were made. In light of recent events, the Dean and the Chapter of Westminster have started a conversation about the abbey monuments and how we can better reflect the attitudes of our time. "

The tomb of Thomas Picton, a soldier who executed dozens of slaves and approved the torture of a 14-year-old girl while serving as governor of Trinidad, is in St. Paul's Cathedral. The blue plaque of English heritage to Picton at his birthplace in Haverford West, Pembrokeshire, was removed by the owners of the building, and it was required that its statue be removed from Cardiff City Hall and the Picton shopping center in Swansea.

Queen Anne's bounty, set up for the clergy, became part of the Church's commissioners. Criticism has spread to Anne's statues, one of which is in front of St. Paul's Cathedral. Her relationship to colonialism and the East India Company was highlighted.

A spokesman for the cathedral said, “Saint Paul should represent our human diversity in his iconography and life, because we want to be a house of prayer for all nations. So far we have not succeeded. So in the short term, we’ll be consulting with our culturally diverse community members on how we can respond to the issues rightly highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement, not just the annoyance and insult caused by some monuments, but also on the broader issues of racial injustice in church and state.

"In the medium term, we will work with the Pantheons project at the University of York, our planning authorities and other partners on a longer-term strategy for the memorials and for the promotion of racial justice."

Archdioceses in the Southwark diocese wrote to the parishes on Monday saying, “Many people are demanding the removal of statues and other monuments for people involved in slavery or the slave trade. We know that some church buildings have such connections. There will be others. We don't want to pretend it isn't. We do not encourage you to remove monuments, but to research and reflect. . . If you don't already have it in your inventory, find out who is being remembered in your church and on the grounds. If there are no monuments, does your story suggest such connections, perhaps in an earlier building? "

At St. James & # 39; s, Piccadilly, London, there are wall monuments to merchants like Charles Todd, a member of the East India Company.

Archbishop Council Cathedral and Church Director, Becky Clark, said: “We recognize that dialogue alone is not enough and it must have real results. This can include changing or removing monuments. However, this must be done safely and legally, and we do not tolerate illegal acts. The dialogue must be open and honest. Churches and cathedrals are considering how to address the problems raised by the Black Lives Matter movement and which demonstrations and direct actions have led to such a sharp relief. "

Ms. Clark also warned that faculties would have to be acquired before a monument could be changed or removed. Last week, the PCC in St. Margaret's, Rottingdean, Sussex, was given permission to cover the headstones of two music hall singers, GH Elliott and Alice Banford, both of whom had black faces during their careers and theirs Tombstones show what is believed to be offensive language today.

On Monday, the PCC went to a faculty to remove the tombstones for safe keeping while making a decision about their future. In an urgency judgment, Diocesan Chancellor Mark Hill QC admitted that their temporary removal did not prejudice whether they should be reinstated in the future, "either unchanged or covered with part of the inscription or re-cut" or replaced or some other means be applied.

Nigel Andrew, the author of a study of church monuments in 2020, The Mother of Beauty, said: “Many very beautiful monuments are reminiscent of thoroughly evil men. A particularly cruel example is the grave of Sir Sampson de Strelley in All Saints, Strelley, Notts. His head rests on a helmet that shows a throttled Saracen with his tongue sticking out. Another example is the monument to Reginald, Lord Cobham, in St. Peter and St. Paul, Lingfield, Surrey. His head rests on a bog head helmet and his feet on a grotesquely caricatured Saracen.

"In St. Mary & # 39; s, Bletchingley, Surrey, there is a very large monument to Sir Robert Clayton, Lord Mayor of London, who has a similar record to Edward Colston from Bristol and has invested in the Royal Africa Company. His statue is removed from the public at St. Thomas & # 39; s Hospital.Thomas Guy, who also fell victim to the statue removers, also has a memorial in the chapel of Guy & # 39; s Hospital.Lord Curzon, who has close ties to imperialism , including Viceroy of India, has a memorial in All Saints, Kedleston, Derbyshire. "

He continued: “Our old churches have an overly obvious history of the iconoclasm and the mutilation of statues. However, this was almost always directed against religious images, not against human individuals. Churches are a kind of “private” space that is not part of the public arena. So I think we should disregard modern sensitivities to ecclesiastical monuments, as they are admired for their aesthetic qualities and their antiquarian interest rather than their connection with the life of the person depicted. "

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