Remembering the Windrush Generation

Pic: Steve Eason

By Lianne Kolirin 22 June 2020

Faith leaders have spoken out about racism and injustice as the nation pays tribute to the contribution of the Windrush generation to British society.

Commemorating Windrush Day 2020, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby tweeted: “This morning I joined in two minutes’ silence at @LambethPalace to lament the racism suffered by the #WindrushGeneration, to give thanks for their invaluable contribution to British society, and to pray for justice. #WindrushDay2020.”

Yesterday (Sunday) Father Andrew Moughtin-Mumby, Rector of St Peter’s Church in Walworth, south east London, led an online service for the Church of England  in which he said that racism experienced by the Windrush generation in parish churches after they first arrived in Britain was a “stain on the soul” of the church.

Today marks the 72nd anniversary of the arrival of  the Empire Windrush   at the Tilbury Docks in east London. The former troop carrier was carrying Jamaican and other British Commonwealth citizens from the West Indies to help rebuild Britain after the Second World War.

The term “Windrush generation” refers to some half a million people living in the UK today who arrived in Britain from Caribbean countries between 1948 and 1971. In that final year the migrants were granted indefinite leave to remain but thousands were undocumented children travelling on their parents’ passports.

A scandal began to erupt in 2017 as it emerged that a change in the law meant those without documents were asked for evidence to continue working, access services or even to remain in Britain.

Father Andrew, who was born in Jamaica, delivered the address as part of the Church of England’s online weekly service. He said: “There is still racism in the Church today, and it is a very serious disease and a sin which I believe each one of us is called to work hard and work urgently to end.”

He added: “Our lament and sadness friends, should make us want to make a difference; to build a better, fairer Church and world.”

His address came as the home secretary, Priti Patel, announced a Windrush Cross-Government Working Group, which she will chair jointly with Bishop Derek Webley, from the New Testament Church of God.

The working group will also look at inequalities in education, work and health as they affect black people, and black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities in general. Bishop Webley was District Bishop for Birmingham and Solihull from 1996 to 2014.

Bishop Paul McAleenan, lead bishop for migrants and refugees within the Catholic Church in England, encouraged his community to unite in prayer and reflection on Windrush Day. He said: “The story of the Windrush Generation is one of people coming to the UK, settling and building their lives here and making an enormous contribution to society; yet all too often these same people were failed by the state, as the scandal of the detention and deportation of innocent people made tragically clear. Many of those harmed still await redress from government.”

Learning lessons from history, he said, is an essential part of the process: “Racial justice depends upon many things, including learning from our history. This Windrush Day we should unite in prayer and reflection, with a shared commitment to properly recognise the profound importance and value of the UK’s migrant and ethnic minority communities, never allowing their human dignity to be violated.”

The Anglican Bishop of Southwark Christopher Chessun wrote: “I rejoice at and take pride in the diversity within the Diocese of Southwark which I see as God’s gift and blessing. We have stood strongly with the Black Lives Matter campaign and we want also to lament past and present injustices and wrongs, celebrating the gifts and talents of people of Caribbean heritage and the many ways they have enriched our churches and parishes.

“As we spend two minutes in silence let us contemplate the lives lost in the slave trade; lament the racism and racial inequality built into our national systems and structures since that time; and consider what action we can take to confront racial injustice today.

“Let us make Windrush Day 2020 a day when we as a Diocese pledge to change structures of inequality in the Church as we seek to implement our vision of increasing the diversity of lay and ordained leaders in our parishes and institutions.”