Like many of you I watched Monday’s England football game (0-6 by the way) in Bulgaria. It was a strange experience. On one hand I felt angry and repulsed by the overtly racist behaviour being displayed by significant minority of fans. And on the other hand, quietly proud of the England team, all of the players and management, whatever their racial origins.
I’m not in the business of promoting the BBC but you might want to listen to Desert Island Discs this weekend (or pick it up on the BBC Sounds app). On Desert Island Discs is an ex-political advisor to the Foreign Secretary (William Hague). This isn’t about politics or political leaning but today and repeated on Sunday Baroness Arminka Helic is being interviewed. Ms Helic arrived in the UK some 22 years ago, as a child, fleeing from the Balkans conflict. Almost exactly 20 years later she was elevated to the House of Lords. I think, as she will describe, there are very few countries in the world where people can be elevated and recognised for their contribution rather than their ethnic origin or place of birth.
Despite the difficulties that we undoubtedly face in this country we can and should be very proud of the mixed community within which we live and the wider complicated yet relatively harmonious nation we find ourselves living in.
Despite the desire from some individuals to create division between peoples and communities I see each and every day wonderful examples of different groups of children, young people and adults working together and in relative harmony.
I know that they are only footballers, but those young English players (be them black or white) taking a stand against racism, however it presents itself and in which ever form was quite and quietly inspirational. Those young men have great influence and traction in the wider community and their actions on Monday evening will have made a significant difference to how many of us feel we can and should act in the face of overt or insidious racism.
There is a lot to be proud of when we think of the community in which we live and serve. There is a lot to be proud of when we think about the country in which we live and serve.
I was born poor and without religion, under a happy sky, feeling harmony, not hostility, in nature. I began not by feeling torn, but in plenitude. Albert Camus