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21 May 2014

Tackling hate crimes in Wales

Tackling hate crimes in Wales

People were shocked recently when it was revealed in the press that Kezzie Meriel-Crawford, an 18-year old, mixed-race, Welsh-speaking singer, was told "to go back to where she came from" by an older person while at the Carmarthenshire town of Laugharne for a music festival.

The racist incident came around the same time that Welsh government launched its Tackling Hate Crimes and Incidents – A Framework for Action at the Wales Millennium Stadium, this itself following on from the three year All Wales Hate Crime Research Project.

Evangelical Alliance Wales participated in this project in two areas – looking at discrimination against Christians in general and also the religious intolerance experienced by some Christians (including converts) from different cultures.

This framework for action covers the different equality strands (disability, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender and age) and also feeds into another Welsh Government initiative – a national conversation on "The Wales We Want" - which is encouraging citizens to contribute ideas towards the Wales we want our children and grandchildren to live in.

The framework presents both opportunities and challenges for the Church in Wales. It would be difficult to argue that tackling hate crimes and incidents is incompatible with an evangelical worldview and yet, if we're honest, we have been selective in the areas where we have been involved – covering some more than others. Of course the evangelical church only has a limited capacity and we cannot be expected to do everything, but the framework presents a challenge for us to make sure that we are, to the best of our ability, serving the common good and not intentionally excluding people from church mission.

A primary concern for Christians has been to see our place in society maintained – and this is not wrong. The BBC compiles a yearly list of words that are deemed offensive and grades them accordingly and, over the years, religious words (eg bloody) have been deemed less offensive while others relating to race and sexual orientation more so. This mirrors the declining influence of Christianity in our culture and Christians are rightly concerned.

Evangelical Christian engagement in the Welsh government framework can perhaps be most easily linked in the areas of disability, race and age – where evangelicals are more visibly involved in both Christians and secular charities.

Although engagement in gender may not be so readily apparent, our recent Gweini violence against women conference revealed that evangelicals are actually playing a significant role in the prevention of violence against women through different church-based initiatives.

We need a stronger voice from evangelical Christians against all forms of hate crime and in support of victims of homophobic bullying.

The Welsh government framework on hate crimes and incidents will be an opportunity for Christians in Wales to look at our work through a different lens to see what we are doing well and to identify areas for improvement.

Jim Stewart, public policy officer, Evangelical Alliance Wales.