Christian Aid’s Board and leadership team commissioned a report early in 2020, in the light of the changes involved in aligning the charity with a new international strategy, Standing Together and the perceived impact of these changes on Britain-based staff.
Shortly afterwards, the Black Lives Matter movement raised racial injustice to the top of the agenda for a wide range of organisations and institutions, including the Churches, the arts, business, politics and international development agencies.
Throughout Christian Aid’s 75-year history, the organisation has worked tirelessly for justice all over the world. It supported the work of Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Jr in the 1960s for the civil rights movement in the US, and launched the Southern African Coalition in the 1980s to work for an end to apartheid.
Christian Aid has been driven throughout that time by its values of dignity, equality, justice and love; its mission is and has always been to stand with the poorest and most marginalised communities around the world. However, the report – entitled Integrity & Collaboration - makes it clear that the organisation has been failing to live up to those values, and still has to tackle the reality of racism and inequality in its own organisational life.
In response, Christian Aid has outlined a series of interventions to ensure it tackles the signs of structural and systemic racism in its life and work, recognising that this remains a major issue within the sector as in our society as a whole.
The steps agreed on include:
- the recruitment of a Race and Diversity Lead who will form part of the organisation’s leadership team
- increased oversight of race and diversity within the Board
- the revision of policies and behavioural goals
- the creation of safe spaces for continued dialogue
- regular race and diversity training for the Board, directors and wider staff team.
This response follows the report’s recommendations, which identified an organisational culture in which Black, Asian and Minority ethnic staff encountered racism at work and did not feel confident in the organisation’s willingness to name and challenge it.
The report was carried out by Xtend (UK) Ltd, and involved interviews with Christian Aid staff in Great Britain. Among its findings were that:
- There was a need to ensure that the leadership of Christian Aid, at all levels, understands the racial dynamics within the organisation, and is adequately equipped to address racial injustice. Leadership must be accountable for creating an environment where all staff can have a lived experience of its values of dignity, equality, justice and love.
- There was a need to strengthen the Human Resources function – its ability to ensure all managers adhere to policies, its ability to stand scrutiny and be held accountable, and its credibility as the trusted custodian of fair and equitable practices and behaviour across the whole organisation.
- There was a need for the whole organisation to ensure there are systems in place to generate the data and business intelligence required to inform the ways in which it proactively seeks to embed race equality in the organisation.
The report also included a number of recommendations around tackling a culture of ‘colour blindness’ and silence on race, as well as encouraging a higher level of involvement for the Board and the leadership team in tackling evidence of racism in the organisation.
Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, CEO of Christian Aid, said: “The report makes for painful reading. I am thankful to the staff who bravely shared their lived experiences in order that Christian Aid might do better. Christian Aid’s mission is rooted in the belief that every human being is made in the image of God and has innate dignity. And yet for these colleagues, it has not felt that way.
“We have raised our voices with conviction and stood in solidarity with marginalised communities from the time we were established. But the report has shown us that we cannot rely on our long history of fighting injustice elsewhere and ignore the longstanding issues of racial injustice that have made Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff feel less valued, for far too many years, in our own organisation. We must now do better. It will be tough all round. It will be difficult. But we must now take forward the commitment to rooting out the inequality and injustice within. We must begin the process of creating an environment where all staff can have a lived experience of our values of dignity, equality, justice and love.”
Dr Rowan Williams, Chair of Christian Aid, said: “This report shows that we have fallen short of the standards that we set for ourselves, standards that we must embody in order to realise our vision. The report shines a light on the reality of the human cost of racial inequality. The effects of this inequality are pervasive in our society and we must acknowledge with penitence that they are also pervasive in our organisation.
“This is a clear and urgent moral challenge, and we must act upon it honestly and effectively. The response that we have approved as a Board summarises how the Trustees, the Directorate, the extended leadership team and the staff will together deliver on these recommendations in the short, medium and longer term. We must change our habits and assumptions so that we can become a truly anti-racist organisation.
“Christian Aid can and must do this. We can demonstrate, as we have done before that how we do our work reflects fully the values that we say we are committed to.”
Please see this new blog, '5 steps we are taking to become a truly anti-racist organisation'