Developing a “Made in Niagara” Anti-racism Framework

By The Reverend Naomi Kabugi

When the Anti-Racism Working Group (ATRWG) first met in 2020, none of us was sure how anti-racism in the diocese should be addressed. We knew of other anti-racism initiatives, but none from faith-based organisations or institutions like ours. So, we had to search within and among ourselves on how to go about anti-racism work in our diocese. The brainstorming sessions were long and sometimes painful. With resilience, compassion, and grace, we read together, we enrolled in anti-racism training sessions wherever offered in and outside Canada, and with more discussions, an anti-racism roadmap was emerging.

Rev. Naomi Kabugi

In the process we learned a lot about racism, how it operates and is perpetuated. Most importantly, we learned about racialized trauma that affects every BODY that lives in a racialized society like others. So, for our group, we learned that fighting racism is not about pointing fingers, but about harmonizing our bodies by bringing them together so that we can all heal and experience wholeness together. This sounds more easily said than done. But it basically means naming and working through major and small (racist) behaviours that affect others through the invisible fabric of our connectedness.

At the heart of our many discussions, we desired and searched for a “Made in Niagara” anti-racism framework that ensure that our Christian values and roots are woven into this work. It may have secular expressions in law and culture, but for Christians, racism is deeply embedded in one of its most sacred beliefs and practice—the core of our faith—the sacrament of baptism. As Anglican Christians, there is no better base to build on than our baptismal vows:

  • Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?
  • Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
  • Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

What are the forces competing with God’s purpose in our society today? The Black Lives Matter movement, increasing anti-Asian hostility, the discovery of secret graves of Indigenous children—these all reveal the current forces rebelling against God, corrupting and destroying creatures of God in our society. And through the binding together of baptism, we have all vowed, promised, and must continue to renew our vows to renounce these forces each time we gather to celebrate baptisms in our congregation and during Easter.

In our Anglican Christian faith/belief and understanding, in its clear and certain terms, baptism is also an act of resistance and breaking barriers. These are vows that establish relationships of equals, and the making of these vows is an act of breaking systemic and structural racism.

And so having entered into this holy covenant, and born into a new life in Christ, we are called to be a loud and ever-present prophetic witness against the tyranny of racism that befall unequally upon racialized groups, the Indigenous peoples, and all people.

Mandated by the bishop, the Anti-Racism Working Group is entering into an implementation phase which will include the following recommendations:

  • Develop HR policies for clergy, parishes in transition, and clergy moving into the diocese as well as new ordinands around required anti-racism training
  • Develop a “Made in Niagara” training/education program for parishes and individuals (clergy and lay) to be ready for Synod 2022
  • Develop a “Train the Facilitators” program so training program facilitators are well-equipped to facilitate regional and parish training
  • Ensure that our Christian values are centred in the resources used and developing, including the healing of trauma, acts of reconciliation, and liturgies of reconciliation.