By Mukami McCrum
|The use of violence as a method of control and domination of those who are deemed to be inferior and powerless is practised in many cultures, societies and countries of the world. At the domestic level, it is used against women, children and other vulnerable members of the family. At the national and international level, poor people, asylum seekers, refugees, Black and minority ethnic, migrant and Indigenous Peoples are occasionally subjected to, or threatened with, violence by the state and the institutions that uphold and perpetuate violence in the name of peace, order and national security. Any form of violence is harmful to the victim and has wider implications for society as a whole.|
Racial violence differs from other forms of violence in that the root causes are to do with assumption of superiority and dislike of other people who are deemed to be inferior because of their identity, ethnic origin, nationality, national origins or descent; and because of their appearance and physical characteristics such as colour, language and dress. These are natural and normal attributes, and any attack on them is an attack of the very core of oneís essence as a human being and as a member of the human race. Racial violence manifests itself in many ways. In its mildest form, it can be pushing, spitting, name-calling, teasing, or practical jokes. In more serious cases it involves physical assault, arson, stabbing, rape, murder, attempted murder, massacres and genocide.
|There is no continent which is free of racial violence. Racial violence has been the trade-mark of racism throughout history.
||A global phenomenon|
There is no continent which is free of racial violence. Racial violence has been the trade-mark of racism throughout history. In the Americas and Caribbean, the Colombian legacy of dispossession, massacres, violence and near annihilation of the native peoples, and the brutal slave trade have left lasting effects on marginalised communities of that area. The slave trade, imperialism and colonialism, and more recently apartheid, were systematic and legalised forms of racism which used brutal force and violence against Africans, Asians and Indigenous Peoples, including Dalits, Gypsies and travelling people. Violence against these people has excluded them from social, political, cultural, economic and educational benefits because of their colour, caste, descent. In India, the so called "pollution line" still divides Dalits from other castes in spite the abolition of the practice of untouchability fifty years ago. Today, beatings, rape and murder of Dalits still happen.
Effects of racial violence
|From murder to massacre and genocide|
The horror of racially motivated murders is too painful to comprehend. It leaves a long-lasting negative impression on the minds of the victims family, community and society as a whole. It is a signal and warning which Christians, and people who care about humanity, should never ignore. It is a warning of the consequences of racial and ethnic hatred which, if unchecked, can lead to the indiscriminate slaughter of men, women and children by other human beings justified by hatred, enmity and dislike of the other. The genocides in Rwanda, Bosnia and Kosovo are recent reminders of the evil that can be generated by political systems. History is littered with similar examples, and we must never forget the systematic violence meted out to slaves, Indigenous Peoples and others during the slave trade, colonialism and imperialism.
Response to racial violence
The state responds to resistance against racism with ever-increasing sophistication, including legal measures and advanced military force. The increase of extremist political parties who distribute materials which incite racial hatred, and the fact that government condemnation of racism, in most cases, amounts to meaningless platitudes, has meant that perpetrators of racial violence feel empowered and encouraged to continue their racist practices. States sanction racial violence by legal documents, rules and procedures which portray certain groups of people as inferior, as criminals or scroungers.
Across Europe, and no doubt in other parts of the world, anti-racism campaigners and organisations have documented and monitored a large increase in racial incidents and violence. In recent years there has been an unprecedented increase in the numbers of internally displaced people, refugees and migrant workers. At the same time, powerful countries have introduced stringent control measures to keep those displaced people out. There is an undeniable body of evidence of the role of the state in perpetuating racism and racial violence. The Migrant Newsheet (published by the Migration Policy Group, Brussels) produces a monthly digest of the experiences of refugees and ethnic minorities in Europe. In March 2000, it reported that an Austrian high-ranking police officer, who was accused of suggesting that Africans should be beaten before asking them any questions, had his case dropped by the public prosecutor.
The role of religion
The church can, and must, nurture a culture of non-violence and restore through a healing process a world where we can live in peace and without fear. To do this, the church must be bold and confident in leading the way to a better common understanding and respect for human rights of all people.
Mukami McCrum is the Moderator of the WCC Womenís Advisory Group and was previously a member of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission. McCrum was born and raised in Kenya where she worked as a teacher before moving to Scotland where she raised her family and studied at the University of Edinburgh and at Moray House College of Education.
She is a sociologist and has previously worked as a community worker and as a project coordinator. She was a founder member of Shakti Womenís Aid, a project for Black women against violence. She is a member of the Board of Akina mama wa Afrika a development NGO for African women in Europe and Africa. She plays an active role in the SISTERS network of the JPC team. She has been a member of government race forums in UK and Scotland and is currently employed as the Director of Central Scotland Race Equality Council in UK.
|Meeting at the end of the most violent century ever in human history and at the threshold of a new century, the VIIIth Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Harare, declared 2001-2010 as the Decade to Overcome Violence. It is an urgent call to churches and ecumenical organisations to work together for peace, justice and reconciliation in a world overwhelmed by a culture of violence. The Decade is to be launched in Berlin on February 4, 2001 during a meeting of the WCC Central Committee.||The emphasis of the Decade is on "overcoming". An honest way to overcome violence is to deal with its causes. These are often structural and cultural in nature, affecting social, political and economic relationships. As a result, certain categories of people are always the victims of various forms of violence. Racism is one such cause of violence all over the world today. It is domination based on discrimination and oppression of the powerless, akin to other dominations such as patriarchy, caste and xenophobia.||It is hoped that the Decade will address these shameful traits of our modern generation within and outside the churches.|