World Children’s Day: why we need to raise awareness about children’s rights

Each year the 20th November marks World Children’s Day in recognition of, and to promote, children’s rights.

This date is significant because on the 20th November in 1959, the Declaration of the Rights of the Child was adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and, on the same date in 1989, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

The Declaration on the Rights of the Child set out 10 principles aimed specifically at protecting children from violence and discrimination as well as their rights to life, good health and education. The UNCRC expands on these principles and includes 54 articles aimed at protecting children’s civil, political, social economic and cultural rights. The Convention applies to all children from birth to 18 years and has been ratified by all countries across the world apart from the USA, making it one of the most widely adopted international treaties of all time. The Convention was ratified by the UK government in 1991.

World Children’s Day is an opportunity for those working with and on behalf of children to organise activities and events aimed at celebrating children’s rights, and to raise awareness of rights that apply specifically to children. It is also a day when governments, teachers and other professionals and organisations across the world draw attention to situations where children’s rights are not being met.     

Although many children live have happy and fulfilled childhoods, countless children do not. For millions of children across the world their rights are not acknowledged or met. Unicef  report that approximately one in three children across the globe – that equates to roughly 663 million children -live in households that lack necessities such as basic nutrition or clean water and, furthermore, an estimated 385 million children live in extreme poverty.  They also report that even in the world’s richest countries, one in seven children live in poverty and one in four children in the European Union are at risk of falling into poverty.

The United Kingdom (UK) is not exempt from these worrying statistics. Data from The Children’s Society reveals that four million children in the UK live in poverty and, even more concerning, they predict that this figure is set to reach five million this year – this equates to an average of nine children in a classroom of 30 who are predicted to be living in poverty. 

These figures reflect some of the difficulties facing children across the world in relatively wealthy, as well as less wealthy, nations. However, they are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to children’s rights not being met. As well as issues of poverty, many children across the world also face challenging issues including violence, neglect, child labour, child prostitution, human trafficking and lack of food, shelter, health care and education.

The examples are a stark reminder of the urgent need to take action to improve the lives and experiences of millions of children to ensure children’s rights are acknowledged, understood and realised.

Carol Robinson is a Professor of Children’s Rights in the Faculty of Education at Edge Hill University.

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At the Heart of Gold: Rethinking Athlete Welfare

According to experts at a recent public event supported by the Institute for Social Responsibility (ISR), sports organisations need to rethink how they approach athlete welfare, to ensure they are meeting their legal and moral obligations, and to provide a healthy and safe environment.

Abuse and maltreatment in sport have featured heavily in national and international headlines in recent years. Against this backdrop, Dr Melanie Lang, assistant director of The Centre for Child Protection and Safeguarding in Sport (CPSS), hosted a successful public event on understanding and developing athlete welfare on 9th November 2020. The event was timed to celebrate Dr Lang’s latest book, The Routledge Handbook of Athlete Welfare.

The free online event was attended by athletes, academics, and safeguarding and welfare in sport policymakers and professionals from organisations including national governing bodies of sport, the Ann Craft Trust, and the International Centre for Ethics in Sport in Belgium. Delegates were drawn from the UK, Belgium, Cyprus, Sweden, and Spain.

The event featured presentations from four speakers and was opened by Professor Jo Crotty, Director of the ISR. In the first presentation, Dr Lang called for more resources to be directed towards non-sexual forms of abuse in sport. Highlighting research indicating that emotional abuse is the most prevalent form of abuse in sport, yet the least likely to be reported, Dr Lang argued that sports organisations must do more to raise awareness of and act on this form of abuse. Dr Lang provided examples of how athletes can be empowered to speak out about abuse and what sports organisations can do to better respond to under-recognised forms of abuse.

In the second presentation, Dr Geoff Kohe from the University of Kent and CPSS member, and Edge Hill University senior lecturer Dr Laura Purdy discussed care ethics in sport. They highlighted how a particular narrow conceptualisation of care has become normalised in sport, arguing this restricts understandings of welfare. Drs Kohe and Purdy advocated for a broader understanding of athlete welfare and more nuanced conceptualisations of care that are more responsive to athlete needs.

Finally, Professor Hayley Fitzgerald of Leeds Beckett University and the University of Worcester discussed the welfare of disabled people in sport. Professor Fitzgerald noted that research focusing on safeguarding in sport in relation to disability is rare, and that what little is known has tended to come from studies that investigated welfare issues in the general sport population rather than specifically exploring the experiences of disabled participants. Professor Fitzgerald argued that an embedded approach is needed whereby issues of disability are infused within generic safeguarding approaches rather than disabled athletes being treated as a separate category of concern.

The event concluded with a lively discussion between delegates and panellists on a range of welfare issues affecting athletes and other sport stakeholders.

To learn more about the Centre for Child Protection and Safeguarding in Sport, its members and their work in safeguarding and welfare in sport, please visit the CPSS website.

Dr Melanie Lang is Assistant Director for the Centre for Child Protection and Safeguarding in Sport (CPSS), and Senior Lecturer Child Protection in Sport at Edge Hill University.

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Biden, Trump and the Lessons of the Past

In recent weeks media commentators have dubbed the 2020 U.S. election ‘historic’. It’s understandable.

The campaign was fought in the midst of a global pandemic. By election day over 9.5 million Americans had contracted COVID-19 and more than 235,000 had died.

The contrasting responses of the candidates towards the epidemic, and their competing visions of the future, reflected deep, troubling, divisions in American society. The enmity between the two sides led to a voter turnout of more than 150 million. Win or lose, both candidates look set to receive more votes than any other presidential candidate in American history, surpassing the record of 69.4 million set by Barack Obama in 2008.

The high turnout and closely contested nature of the race means the outcome has remains in doubt. Given pending legal challenges it could be weeks, if not months, before the result is known.

It is an election unlike any other, and yet there are historical precedents for all the current circumstances.

Bitter rivalries are rooted in the American political tradition. In a 1796 letter to George Washington, the radical political thinker Tom Paine denounced the nation’s hallowed founder as ‘treacherous in private friendship and a hypocrite in public life’. The ‘world will be puzzled to decide, whether you are an apostate, or an imposter. Whether you have abandoned good principles, or whether you ever had any’.  

Contested elections are also nothing new. In 1824 Andrew Jackson won 11 states with 41.4 per cent of the popular vote to 7 states and 30.9 per cent for John Quincy Adams. Unfortunately for Jackson he failed to secure a majority in the electoral college. Under the 12th Amendment to the Constitution the outcome of the election was decided by the U.S. House of Representatives, with each state casting one vote. Viewed by some as a dangerous demagogue, Jackson lost 13 – 7.

Albeit impressive, the projected 67 per cent turnout of eligible voters in 2020 is eclipsed by the 81.2 per cent turnout of 1860. In that contest the United States was even more divided than it is today. The election of Abraham Lincoln plunged the nation into civil war.

There is even a precedent for a pandemic election. The 1920 campaign coincided with the final months of a global flu epidemic. Between 1918 and 1920 more than 100 million Americans were infected, including outgoing president Woodrow Wilson. Some 675,000 Americans died from the contagion.

It’s a sobering thought that whoever wins the 2020 election, if it takes place, the large crowds attending their inauguration on 20 January has all the potential to turn the day into a super-spreader COVID event. Notwithstanding Trump’s claims to the contrary, there is no guarantee that prior illness with the virus provides lasting immunity against re-infection. Given this he and Biden might do well to reflect on the fate of William Henry Harrison. Sworn in as President in March 1841, on a cold, wet, day in Washington DC, the 68-year old unwisely gave a two-hour inauguration address. Within days he developed a bad cold that turned into pneumonia and died a month after taking office.

Kevern Verney is Associate Dean Research and Professor in American History in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Edge Hill University.

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And the winner is…

We may not know yet who will win the Presidential Election but, as Edge Hill programme leader for Politics Paula Keaveney, argues, some people have “won” already.

I am constantly amazed by the speed with which US commentators switch from the results of an election to the question of who will run next.  Sometimes there are just a few months.  Sometimes we don’t even get to the inauguration before the talking starts.

And this year there are likely to be more politicians than ever pondering what this month’s results mean for them and their ambitions.

If Trump wins, he can only serve one more term. There is a legal limit.  And if Biden wins, his suggestion of a single term Presidency becomes very relevant.

This means that, more than ever, the focus will switch almost immediately to what comes next.

Ambitious Republicans will be working out whether distancing from Trump or appearing to hug Trump close will help their prospects.

But it is within Democratic hearts that hope, and ambition is likely to beat most strongly.

The general wisdom is that it is better to be a challenger than follow an incumbent.  But electoral trends in the US have shown a strong incumbency factor when the party is in its first term.  In other words, it is easier for that party to win another four years.  Reasons for this vary but it is argued that voters tend to pin blame on previous administrations for the first few years.  A Biden Presidency then could run into economic difficulties but avoid economic blame.  This in turn means that being selected as the Democratic candidate to follow a President Biden is a very attractive prospect.

So, although we don’t have a winner yet, we do have winners.  These are individuals well positioned to make a run to become the next nominee.

Top of this list must be Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris.  Harris has achieved that key political combination of ability and luck.  The Senator from California’s run for the nomination ended early.  But timing is all.  And her selection by Biden has propelled her to national prominence in a way her primary rivals can only envy.  If Biden wins, and sticks to his one term idea, she will be front runner for the nomination.  If he loses, her profile and campaigning must give her the edge (as long as no blame for the loss attaches itself to her) Kamala Harris then is my winner of the night.

My runner up, another Democrat, is former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.  Mayor Pete did well initially in the primaries but then stopped campaigning and endorsed Biden.  His media appearances as a Biden surrogate in recent weeks, including taking the fight to the usually hostile Fox News, have positioned him well for another run.

Politics never sleeps in the US.  It is always worth watching out for who is on manoeuvres.

Paula Keaveney is a senior lecturer in Politics.  US Politics is one of the subjects covered on Edge Hill University’s Politics degrees.

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Some Thoughts on the Crisis of National Identity

Even in a small national state like our own, it would be more accurate to talk about identities rather than posit the notion of a single all-encompassing identity. This multiplicity of identities is formed by an interaction of class, region and culture. George Orwell’s comment that one rarely hears an educated accent north of Watford (The Road to Wigan Pier) brings together two of these elements as expressed by an Old-Etonian Southerner.

As a student I had the misfortune to work in the kitchen of a Pontin’s holiday camp. During a lull in the proceeding which we loosely referred to as ‘cooking’ two of my Liverpudlian colleagues improvised a banner and marched around singing The Sash My Father Wore, an Orange Order marching song. As an East Anglian this Protestant bigotry was entirely alien to my cultural identity, and yet we were all English.

Crises of identities are also nothing new, in the early part of the 20th century there was a belief among opinion formers, including Fabian socialists, that the ‘racial stock’ of the nation was in physical and mental decline. This sense of crisis was in part stimulated by the revelation, at the turn of the 19th century, that 40% of those volunteering for military service were medically unfit. Marie Stopes, the birth-control campaigner was, in part, motivated by a desire to control the excessive fertility of the lower orders.

In the 1980s Baroness Thatcher of Finchley, as she became, promoted the idea that the British were entrepreneurial, individualistic and, after the Falklands conflict, neo-imperialistic. The blighted areas of the old heavy industries did not feature in this presentation. Before Thatcher, Macmillan declared ‘You’ve never had it so good’ conjuring up a late 1950s narrative of consumerist prosperity. Harold Wilson attempted to create a narrative of modernity and youth, a Britain forged in ‘the white heat of the technological revolution’. These centrally driven presentations of British identity were always only true for a limited number; the homeless depicted in Cathy Come Home (directed by Ken Loach, 1966) did not dwell amongst the shiny new possessions of consumerist prosperity.

What appears to have happened in our own time, a product of the polarisation over Brexit, is the failure to generate a single overarching notion of national identity. In the absence of a strong central narrative of identity political leaders have opted for Populism. The essence of this approach is not to give leadership, but to give expression to the anger and frustrations that exist within many communities. Populists do not lead, they follow, and they frame slogans that their target audiences can add a multitude of meanings to. ‘Take Back Control’ can mean whatever you want it to. So, as someone once asked: What is to be Done?  It does seem that this is a political issue. Clear political leadership is required by politicians who are not afraid to challenge bigotry and racism, who are not afraid to counter pose reason to the irrationality that seems to be growing around the world. Will it happen? Surely at some point, it must!

Dr Roger Spalding is Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader for History at Edge Hill University.

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World Vegan Day: What Does the Research Say?

November 1st 2020 is World Vegan Day, a day when vegans around the world will celebrate veganism. It’s also a great opportunity to reflect on recent research about veganism undertaken by academics including those from Edge Hill University.

In the last five years veganism has moved from the margins to the mainstream. This is best illustrated by the growth of vegan products in supermarkets; a response to a shift in consumption practices in the UK. Estimates have the UK market for meat alternatives valued at more than £1.1 billion in the next three years. It’s no surprise therefore that Asda recently trialled vegan-only aisles in more than half of its stores and Tesco has committed to increasing sales of meat alternatives by 300% by 2025.

There are some important drivers behind these changes to our supermarket aisles. Academic studies have revealed that meat and dairy production are a main contributor to climate change as well as being a leading cause of habitat destruction, deforestation and biodiversity loss [1]. In response to these findings and the pressing need for a radical overhaul of our food systems, two years ago Tesco partnered with The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) with a pledge to halve the environmental impacts of the average UK shopping basket.

A recent 2020 study by Mintel discovered that COVID-19 has made a vegan diet more appealing to UK consumers particularly those in the 21-30 age group. Health, climate change and compassion were cited by the report as driving the interest in vegan diets with consumers looking to dietary changes to boost their immune systems and tackle the environmental impacts and ethical issues associated with animal agriculture.

The three motivations for becoming vegan – health, climate change and animal ethics- are well known to academics working in critical animal studies and the emerging field of vegan studies. At Edge Hill University, the Centre for Human Animal Studies (CfHAS) has been involved in key research that has identified how non-vegans understand and respond to pro-vegan messages and the types of communications that resonate with consumers.

The eighteen-month project was funded by The Vegan Society and undertaken by Professor Claire Parkinson (Creative Arts), Dr Richard Twine (Social Sciences), Dr Claire Blennerhassett (Applied Health and Social Care), Dr Lara Herring (Creative Arts) and Dr Naomi Griffin. Amongst the 48 key findings, the research revealed that non-vegans were more receptive to pro-vegan messages about health and environmentalism than animal ethics and that family dynamics play a major role in sustaining a vegan lifestyle. While pro-vegan messages about health may appeal to non-vegans, animal ethics is cited as the main reason for people continuing to stay vegan. This suggests that motivations for becoming and staying vegan may change over time.

Research undertaken by academics at the Centre for Human Animal Studies has informed the ‘Vegan and Thriving’ and ‘FutureNormal’ campaigns  https://futurenormal.org.uk/. New research set to begin in 2021 will explore the lived experiences of BAME vegans.

If you are Vegan, non-vegan or just interested in veganism – do get in touch, and Happy World Vegan Day!

Professor Claire Parkinson is co-director of the Centre for Human Animal Studies at Edge Hill University


[1] Gerber, P.J et al. 2013. Tackling climate change through livestock – A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome.

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Britishness, Identity and Belonging

The post-Brexit referendum period has witnessed the growth of English nationalism, spikes in hate crime, allegations of institutional racism in the Home Office following the Windrush scandal, and accusations of anti-Semitism in the Labour party. Terror attacks in London and Manchester have undermined public confidence feeding widespread anti- Muslim sentiments, and wars of the last two decades have also led to populism and “great again” nationalism (Houtum and Lacy, 2017).

Against this background Edge Hill colleagues, Dr Francis Farrell, Dr Shereen Shaw, and Professor Vini Lander sought to find out what young people think about being citizens of the UK. They collected data from young people from four secondary schools and two youth groups in the region. Each shared their views on British identity, race, religion and education; their stories and real-life dilemmas, ‘lived up close’.

Our findings showed:

•  For the BAME young people, racism is a painful daily reality and can take a variety of forms including social media bullying campaigns and verbal abuse.

• Young people want more anti-racist education.

• Young people want to learn about each other’s communities, culture and religions through experience by attending exchange visits and schools linking events.

• Young people want to talk about politics and want more political education.

• Young people want open honest debate and ‘truth’.

• There is no consensus on what Britishness means and for some it is a racialised concept that can be used to divide people.

• Young people want knowledgeable teachers who are well trained, committed and get the facts right about different faiths, so they aren’t misrepresented.

In the next phase of the study, we will turn these observations and recommendations into action; working in partnership with them, their schools and youth groups, to form an anti- racist educational network.

Our aim is to facilitate

• Experiential learning, so students can learn about culture, religion and lifestyle through encounter and dialogue

• Young peoples’ civics events; roundtables which allow for the open honest debate, particularly centred on questions of race, identity and religion

And to create

• Curricula, models of learning and teaching and resources that address issues of citizenship, race and identity in post referendum Britain.

Our findings, and our previous work on teachers’ views of the requirement to promote fundamental British values, have enabled us to shed some light on the dilemmas, hopes and aspirations of practitioners and young people in this crucial juncture. In this way, in partnership with the young people and their communities, there is possibility of a more liberating world view that sets down a challenge to all ideologies, improves understanding and eliminates hate.

Dr Francis Farrell is Senior Lecturer Secondary and Further Education (Religious Education) at Edge Hill University.

Dr Shereen Shaw is Further Education and Training Programme Leader (Acting) & Lecturer in Further Education and Training at Edge Hill University.

Professor Vini Lander is Professor of Race and Education and Director of the Centre for Race, Education and Decoloniality in the Carnegie School of Education at Leeds Beckett University.

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Windrush as Watershed? Revisiting migration policy and practice in the UK

In the volatile COVID-19 era, the shift of the UK government away from the ‘hostile environment’ may come as a surprise to some. Priti Patel’s statement on the 21st July 2020 on a more compassionate ‘people, not cases’ approach to immigration in the wake of the Windrush scandal contrasts sharply with Brexit and its aggressive approach towards immigration. The significant impact of the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) on the mental health, wellbeing and belongingness to Britain among EU citizens is said to be huge. The plight of EU citizens and consistent activism to make EUSS accessible, particularly considering the increased barriers towards the vulnerable EU citizens groups since COVID-19 struck, is ongoing.

Windrush

The 1948 British Nationality Act conferred unrestricted entry and the right to live and work in the UK on citizens of the UK’s colonies and the Commonwealth. The act was intended to attract workers from the colonies in a bid to address labour shortages in post war Britain. Between 1948 and 1973 approximately 550,000 West Indians migrated to the UK. The 1971 Immigration Act introduced stricter immigration controls, requiring potential migrants to have family in Britain or apply for a work permit. Whilst this act effectively ended the Windrush migration, it also gave indefinite leave to remain to all those who arrived up until 1973.

The ‘Hostile Environment’

Between 2007-2018, UK government’s immigration policy focused on the creation of a hostile environment for so-called ‘illegal’ immigrants. At the centre was the burden to prove/document the right to live and work in Britain, which determined access to employment, housing, bank accounts and health care. Given the nature of the Windrush migration between 1948 and 1973 many had never regularised their status and could not document their right to remain. From late 2017 the press ran stories of the Windrush generation and their descendants risking deportation, facing homelessness and unemployment and being refused medical treatment. The international community responded swiftly, whilst at home the Church of England started a petition for an immigration amnesty for the Windrush migrants and the scandal led the then Home Secretary Amber Rudd to resign in April 2018.

The impact of Windrush

The true number of victims of the scandal remains unclear. The Home Office believes that 160 Windrush migrants were incorrectly detained or deported since 2002. Up till May 2020, 60 people had received compensation and 1257 had applied, but the scheme is deemed not fit for purpose because it is not easily accessible by claimants.

COVID-19 pandemic and backlog built-up

The ongoing pandemic appears to have had some impact on figures relating to immigration in the UK, risking to create a backlog of cases with the potential of placing migrants at risk of immigration control measures.Applications for the EU settlement scheme numbered 67,300 in April 2020 – a decrease of 46% on the previous month.Asylum applications and initial decisions have also fallen during lockdown.

A systematic scrutiny of migration governance and management is needed so that impactful precedents such as Windrush do not remain grouped under specific case studies. In light of Brexit’s strong anti-immigration focus and the further complications of migration management due to the ongoing pandemic, the new ‘people, not cases’ approach will likely fail to materialise. The UK immigration policy should not just be reactive to system’s failures, but take a human rights approach to migration which should pre-empt major violations and disruptions of migrant-origin people’s lives.

Dr Zana Vathi is an ISR Fellow, Director of the Migration Working Group – North West, and Reader in Social Sciences at Edge Hill University

Samantha Carney, is a Graduate Teaching Assistant in Social Sciences at Edge Hill University


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The Club of 5: Can former PMs really shape the debate?

In my favourite political sitcom, The Thick of It, defenestrated opposition leader Nicola Murray tells spin doctor Malcolm Tucker to take her seriously because she is now “a grandee”.   “You’re not a grandee… you’re a blandee” he replies. Tucker doesn’t want to listen to any of her advice.  She is, as far as he is concerned, well and truly past it.

It seems a little unfair to expect politicians out of office to just keep their mouths shut though.  They have, or feel they have, a balance of insight plus the leisure to reflect on it.  And these few days have seen former prime ministers from Major to May weighing in on the topic of international law.  And while David Cameron struck me as rather reluctant to make a pronouncement, John Major and Tony Blair, chomping at the bit, launched into print in a joint article.

The former premiers, and a more emotive collective noun would be very useful at this point, were giving their views on the Internal Market Bill, a piece of legislation acknowledged to be breaking international law.  The Bill is part of the Government’s arrangements ahead of the final Brexit day.  It is being speeded through the Commons.  There’s usually a gap between stages.  In this case committee follows second reading with haste.

But what effect do the opinions of former Prime Ministers have on those who have a vote?  The only one of the five who can actually take action is Theresa May, with her vote in the Commons.  That must mean the others believe or hope their words will prove persuasive.

This, in my view, is a major mistake.

Aristotle tells us that to be persuasive you need logos, ethos and pathos.  That means you have to have the logical argument; the audience needs to be receptive to you and you need to be the right person to deliver the message. We can’t deny that the former Prime Ministers have the arguments.  They have enough experience in law making to deploy them.  They can use the practical implications of breaking international law as well as the moral points.  But how receptive will the audience be, and do they make good messengers?

Former Prime Ministers are known by the audience of Parliamentarians as politicians who shared their workplace.  And in the world of politics dislike, distrust and jealousy tend to rear their head.  For an MP, having spent five years being snubbed by David Cameron will I want to listen to him?  And didn’t Tony Blair push through policies I fundamentally disagreed with?

While the media will find these ex premiers good copy, they are less helpful when persuasion is needed at Westminster.  And when what’s needed is someone with the ability to have a quiet word, to get people together in a committee room, to drop by in the tea room, they simply are not there. We now know that the Government had a decent majority in Monday’s vote. To defeat the government opponents and rebels will need less noise and more nuance

Paula Keaveney is programme leader for Politics at Edge Hill University


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Narrating the pandemic: COVID-19 as a feature of Turkey’s political landscape

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s 2018 presidential election victory appeared to seal his party’s domination over Turkey’s politics until the end of his term in 2023, or even 2028. Since this victory however, he has presided over an ailing economy. The Turkish lira has plummeted, foreign reserves have shrunk as the Central bank intervened to stabilise the currency, and external debt mounted until Qatar, in May 2020 gave the country’s economy a temporary reprieve.

Concurrently, a number of “rising stars” are waiting in the wings. These include the, 2019 İstanbul mayoral election winner, Ekrem İmamoğlu, and former Erdoğan ally Ali Babacan .  They are both preparing for the post-Erdoğan era by cultivating their charisma and political capital, causing concerns over Erdoğan’s re-election chances.

Erdoğan sought to deflect attention from the country’s woes through a controversial hard power projection exercise. Turkey’s involvement in Syria where it is responsible for the administration of territories it has occupied, its military presence in Libya, and Iraqi Kurdistan,  and its Blue Homeland maritime doctrine have all been presented within the country as evidence of Turkey’s regional strength.

It was against this backdrop that the COVID-19 pandemic reached Turkey. From the outset, the government sought to take narrative control of the spread of the virus in order to mitigate the potential cost and to deflect criticisms that might give an advantage to its opponents.

Erdoğan, reluctant to introduce a full lockdown, called for businesses to stay open and keep the economy’s “wheels turning“, and the government was slow in implementing measures that would hurt the fragile economy, and its own survival.

As unions accused it of disregarding the risk to workers, and Turkey’s reporting of COVID-19 cases was scrutinized by experts who suggested that cases and fatalities were underreported, the government took punitive measures to control criticism.

Medical personnel were reprimanded for speaking out on social media. 410 people were detained for “provocative and abusive” posts, including seven journalists, and TV channels were fined for their coverage, including Habertürk, whose medical expert insinuated that there were many undiagnosed cases, far exceeding confirmed case figures.

Such measures, combined with the government’s control of Turkey’s main media allowed Erdoğan to project an image of strong leadership and claim global recognition for Turkey’s contribution in combatting the pandemic. Erdoğan launched a donation campaign to support the needy, while he blocked a similar drive by his rival Ekrem İmamoğlu, to starve him of public attention.

Pro-government media praised Turkey’s pandemic management, benefits and social support measures, the construction of two pandemic hospitals “within 45 days”, and the government’s “Economic Stability Shield” programme.  Focus was also placed on the government’s preferred power projection narrative of Turkey as a global actor, highlighting Turkey’s sending of medical supplies, personal protective equipment, medicines and ventilators to hard-pressed countries, and their expressions of gratitude.

Erdoğan’s control of the pandemic narrative seems to be paying dividends, with his approval rating recovering from February’s 41.1 percent to 55.8 percent in March with his “strong leadership” projection appealing to supporters from the opposition parties.

COVID-19 has revealed that Turkish voters might be attracted to “strong leadership” more than “democratic promise” and has, perhaps, dismissed rumours of the demise of populism as no more than wishful thinking.

Spyros A. Sofos is a Research Coordinator in the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University.


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Gendered Double Imbalances in Higher Education

Some of you might have seen the Tweets and blogs making the rounds regarding the sexual harassment and exploitation (sexual and not) of female academics.

I read them with a profound sense of knowing sadness: whilst I have been lucky to not be in these women’s places, the misogyny and gendered power imbalances are evident everywhere I look in the academy.

They were evident in the disdain with which a very senior colleague treated me at one institution – on the basis of, I have to assume as we never really spoke, my sex and age (I was approximately half his age). Indeed, he was only ever civil with me once he knew I was leaving. It was also evident in the problematic, unethical behaviour of a senior professor at another institution who started a relationship with someone freshly graduated from a PhD despite the fact that he was her line manager. In most of these, the imbalance created by gendered relations of power are further distorted by the imbalances connected to seniority.

Sadly the academy still views seniority as something that is connected to masculine behaviour. Thus, essentially, seniority itself is gendered, thus creating a double barrier for women and enabling the continued imbalances that exists.

What do I mean by all this?

Seniority is still all too often awarded on research achievement – the number of publications, the number of international collaborations, the number of funding bids completed. All of these take time, and it’s time that women, if they behave in gendered ways, rarely have. Research has shown that women, again and again, take on more pastoral care and also find themselves contributing more to institutional work on student support more generally. Several initiatives have been started that are meant to support women, such as the Aurora leadership programme. But what that means is that often women have to do extra work in order to fit in better, rather than the academy better fitting in with women.

Also women, already have less time – something that has been exacerbated by Covid-19. The Guardian recently reported on the inequalities exposed by the pandemic. Oxford University ran a webinar on the 24 June to talk about how female academics, and mothers in particular, are affected by the crisis. Of course I, as other mothers, couldn’t attend because we were too busy juggling home schooling with holding down the job. So the question arises: how will the academy support women in the future?

How will it recognise how women are exploited in many different ways by the gendered double-imbalances described above? And will it finally address these imbalances, or will it ask us to do more work?

Dr Elke Weissmann is Reader in Television and Film in the Department of Creative Arts at Edge Hill University. Her research is focused on television, transnational relations, and gender and the media.


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Art, Music and Death Amidst the COVID 19 Pandemic:

Musings on Julio Nakpil’s “Deus Omnipotens et Misericors (Requiescat et pace), Marcha Funebre” (1943)

The Research Center for Culture, Arts and Humanities of the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, was in the middle of retrieving and publishing the works of the Filipino composer Julio Nakpil (1867-1960) when we were locked down by the pandemic.

Manila was put on Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) starting March 15, 2020.  Mobility was restricted.  Schools and offices closed down. Theatre productions and music concerts were cancelled, and streets emptied as people stayed in the safety of their homes.

As I worked on the Nakpil project during the lockdown, I was reminded of his composition “Deus omnipotens et misericors” (Requiescat in pace), a funeral march that he composed in 1943 against the backdrop of world war 2. This symphonic ode was dedicated “to the memory of those who have fallen during the night…” (“a la memoria de los que han caido durante la noche.”), especially to his dead comrades who fought with him in the battle for freedom.

Music as a symbolic representation of grief over the experience of death, is embedded in this composition by Nakpil. With little education and with very little training in music, he was a witness to the Japanese Occupation of Manila during WWII in 1943.  He composed this funeral march to help him come to terms with his experience, to be able to endure the pain and possibly to escape from the vicious reality of those times.

The Deus Omnipotens et Misericors, commences with a hollow deathly sound in the bass accompanied by a foreboding low lying melody. He brings in sporadic notes of the flute in the high register to bring tension against the foreboding and lugubrious reality.  Interspersed with the pathetic low registered sound are lovely harmonic melodies that reminisce of a beautiful past, or of the prospect of a bright future that is yet to be known.

Nakpil’s funeral march is a lament of an artist struggling to understand and find solution to the terror and despair brought by destruction to humanity. It is in the arts that he found solace and a glimmer of hope to continue on in his fight.

Today, as the world experiences another unprecedented situation with the “ghost enemy” of the COVID-19 virus, humanity is again under attack. With the economy shut down and people dependent only on the government for support, a funeral march like Deus Omnipotens et Misericors is an apt expression about what is happening, most especially to the arts. It is my hope that the Arts it will not be among those fallen in the night and the subject of other funeral marches in ages to come. 

Maria Alexandra Iñigo Chua, PhD is the Director of the Research Center for Culture, Arts and Humanities of the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, Philippines.


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Caught in the middle? Italy and China after COVID-19

If we look only at trade figures, Sino-Italian relations might not be considered worth our attention. In fact, they are very lop-sided. For Italy, China is not a significant partner, accounting for 3.4% of exports and 7.2% of imports. For China, Italy is even less important, representing less than 1% of both imports and exports. So why should we bother?

There are at least two reasons to be interested in Sino-Italian relations.

The first is that bilateral trade explains only a part of the economic interconnections, since China and Italy are linked through complex global supply chains that involve other countries. For example, automotive components produced in Italy that are exported to Germany, end up in China in the export of German cars.

The second reason has to do with the global implications of the political economy of bilateral relations, before and after COVID-19.

Italy is a highly-indebted country with a public debt/GDP ratio that was already one of the highest in the West and is expected to grow further. In addition, the Italian manufacturing structure – based on small and  medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – is often undercapitalized. This indebtedness will be put under further pressure, due to lack of demand and liquidity constraints arising from the pandemic.

The stronger presence of Chinese investors in Italy is considered a serious concern both in Europe and in the US; as Italy is seen as a possible Trojan horse for Chinese interests in the EU – especially after Italy signed in 2019 a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The decoupling of the US economy from China may also influence Sino-Italian relations, as trade and investment in technology could be limited by eventual American sanctions. Italy’s room to manoeuvre will depend then on how the US-China relations will evolve.

In the medium term, Italy needs to develop its own Chinese strategy, defined within the EU framework. Only an EU-wide common strategy will open some space for Rome to shape a more tailored approach to Italy’s specific needs and interests, but at the same time coherent with the Italian Republic’s long-term foreign policy pillars; Europeanism and Atlantism.

In the longer term, Italy must avoid being caught in the middle of rising Sino-American competition over its economic spoils.

This post is an excerpt from “Italy After COVID-19”, a forthcoming book edited by Andrea Goldstein and Giorgio Bellettini (Bononia University Press).

Giuseppe Gabusi is Assistant Professor of International Political Economy and Political Economy of East Asia at the University of Turin.

Giorgio Prodi is Associate Professor of Applied Economics at the University of Ferrara.


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Covid-19 and Nigeria

Nigeria confirmed their first COVID-19 case on 27th February and since then Nigeria’s centre for disease control has been the leading institution for reporting and tackling the pandemic.

By June 2020, there were 22,020 cases and 542 deaths recorded.

Nigerians have to adapt to a new reality, after initially only hearing the news via media platforms regarding the effect of the virus. COVID-19 has been with us for four months and has already had a dramatic effect on daily lives in Nigeria.

Firstly, it has affected the economy, as the government was forced to review its economic policy and diversify away from an over-reliance on crude oil. The price of crude oil crashed, from $60 in 2019 to $20 per barrel in March 2020, as globally people are travelling much less. As a result, the economy is rapidly declining and without care, the country may enter into recession.

The spread of COVID-19 led to lockdown in several states, including the economic centre of Lagos State; there were very few economic activities during the lockdown. The temporary halt in economics has affected many small-scale businesses and some are already folding. Several companies have to lay off workers and it is projected that almost 40 million Nigerians (more than the entire population of Poland), may lose their job as a result of the pandemic.

Lockdown has also been extremely challenging for Nigerian people, particularly those living in overcrowded areas. People were expected to stay at home 24 hours per day; yet in March and April temperatures often average 45 degrees centigrade, and there were frequent power cuts.

Moreover, there were widespread reports of police brutality and the UN estimates that at least 18 people have been killed by the police enforcing lock down restrictions.

COVID-19 has also increased food insecurity and many Nigerians are at risk of hunger.

Even before the pandemic, there were food shortages reported in Nigeria. In 2018, The World Health Organization reported that Nigeria was overburdened by three main malnutrition indicators: anemia, overweight, and stunting.

The educational system is also grounded as virtual classes are limited, as many families and schools do not have access to the resources needed to facilitate this.

However, there are some positive effects. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the state of health care system in Nigeria and this forced the government to declare a state of emergency in the health sector. The health sector has gradually improved to tackle the pandemic. One such improvement has been the Ogun state government announcing the first modern molecular laboratory in the state.

This pandemic also promotes goodwill among Nigerians; it has brought people together to support community members, providing aid for the most vulnerable.

Finally, COVID-19 has brought out the creativity in Nigerians – people made face masks from local materials, mobile apps were developed and some tertiary institutions developed ventilators. There are also breakthroughs in the development of vaccines reported.

COVID-19 has been a wake-up call for Nigeria but there is hope at the end of the tunnel.

Olayemi Michael Godwin, is a BSc. Nutrition and Dietetics student at the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, Nigeria. He lives in Ogun State Nigeria.

Dr Julie Abayomi is an Associate Head of Applied Health & Social Care at EHU, and a Reader in Dietetics.


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A New Cold War? Can we maintain good academic relationships with China post Covid-19?

As a social scientist working in the field of Chinese politics, I note with interest the speed with which perceptions of China changed these last months. A Cold War mentality is detectable.

We hear from many parts of the world that China’s rise as a superpower is a challenge to the status quo. Politicians and media often label China’s Party-state as an illiberal regime. Nobody should trust it to play a positive role globally, not even in science.

Such criticisms have accelerated and turned into a movement-like wave, especially so under the Trump presidency. In the US, it has reached the level of a shrill crescendo during the Corona crisis.

Shrill as the criticisms may seem, China’s claims to innocence are no less high-pitched. China’s authoritarian Party-state has little tolerance with critics, neither abroad nor at home. This is especially true under Xi Jinping’s leadership, and more so during the Corona crisis. China’s leadership is not shy about admitting it.

While the Communist Party pursues an active and engaging science diplomacy internationally, it has strengthened its control with the organization of the country’s research environments; it demands political loyalty from the field and openly criticizes Chinese researchers with liberal inclinations or international connections.

At the same time, some governments, think tanks and media across the world accuse Chinese researchers of seeking to influence foreign research environments or to exploit them for illicit purposes, with the backing of the Chinese Party-state. Chinese entities of different hues have also come under critical scrutiny in the US and the EU. They are handled with suspicion; they may be sanctioned or even barred from entry or further operation.

At home, I was quite surprised to learn that after 10 years of collaboration, that my university one-sidedly scrapped the ongoing collaboration with Fudan University without discussion.

Navigating this fast-changing landscape is not easy for us or for Chinese social scientists. Last year I wrote about concerns for academic freedom in social science in China, and the Corona crisis has been a time for reflection about the way to counteract this.

Yet, although we are under pressure to accommodate public opinion, and the Communist Party of China demands that our Chinese colleagues align with their ideas, our common enterprise must still be that of independent critical research.

China will not go away; we must find new ways to do research on China and work with our Chinese partners in responsible and transparent ways, while dealing with the changing perceptions and the escalating Cold War mentality that pervades scientific collaboration. We must insist with our trusted partners that we maintain the bridges that we spent decades to build. Tearing then down is unfortunately much easier than building them.

Jørgen Delman is Professor of China Studies at Department of Cross-cultural and Regional Studies (ToRS), University of Copenhagen


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Computer Says ‘No’: Digital Resistance and Online delivery in Tasmania

As Covid-19 spread rapidly throughout the world, the Australian university year was just beginning. Student introductions had been made, course material had been outlined, but deep learning had not been initiated.

As swiftly as Covid-19 took hold, so did the need for Australian academics to restructure their courses from on-campus to online delivery, while attempting to maintain enriching learning experiences. For too long, many Australian universities had been selective with the courses offered for online delivery. Often, courses offered online were developed as mere replications of their on-campus counterparts. For many Australian tertiary educators, online course delivery was no longer a contentious option, but an immediate requirement.

Many talented and highly regarded academics were suddenly unprepared to reframe their courses through a solely digital environment. While some accepted the challenge and capitalised on what the technology could provide teaching delivery, many others ignored the plethora of research regarding online teaching, and reverted to foregone instructional teaching and assessment practices.

During conversations with colleagues, the overpowering focus appeared to be survival: survival in one’s job, survival of entangled personal and professional responsibilities, survival in adjusting to a whole new way of existing. One way to survive was to retreat into safe teaching spaces such as teacher-led instruction, and essay-based assessment.  The student experience dimmed at double the pace, as students too grappled with their own survival; within and external to learning commitments.

For some academics, the changes were a challenge they had unintentionally been preparing for. Many courses offered to ‘traditional online students’ had well-developed asynchronous tools, and synchronous learning experiences, packaged with an overarching emphasis on student engagement. These courses utilised functions, such as timed release of content, hurdle tasks, knowledge and achievement quizzes, and contained short lecture videos to highlight key concepts. Others new and accepting of the challenge reimagined their courses through the lens of an opportunity to diversify; demonstrating the need for reimagining delivery, rather than trying to teach the same face-to-face content through a computer screen.

Courses that were restructured without reverting to comfortable instructor-led teaching and learning, positively influenced the experience of ‘forced online students.’ Student learning was guided through interactive discussion forums and tutorials, skill development occurred through various digital mediums, and learning was presented across an array of platforms.

As Australia moves out of the initial Covid-19 depth with the easing of restrictions, and semester one’s end draws ever closer, the future of university teaching and learning remains as clouded as the past few months. Some colleagues are naturally preparing for continued online delivery, while the ‘digital resisters’ continually refresh their email inbox in hope of the elusive green light to return to the ‘old normal.’

Despite this, overall there appears a deeper respect for online learning and the self-determination and intrinsic motivation students must possess to navigate this learning experience. Achieving this understanding Australian academics have the potential to propel the future of tertiary online education during the pandemic and beyond.

Samantha Vlcek (PhD Candidate) and Scott Pedersen (Senior Lecturer), University of Tasmania, School of Education.


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“In times of trouble the wise built a bridge and the fool a dam” a Nigerian proverb.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its ripple effects became real in South Africa with lock down at the end of March 2020.

No one, not the most prepared, respected or skilled lecturer, could have prepared for what was to come. 

Initially, we higher education lecturers, waited patiently for the government and Minister of Higher Education to guide us. 

Initially staff development programs at South African universities tried to prepare academics for the huge shift from classrooms to E-learning. 

I attended, like a life-long learner, these attempts to guide us to the new, virtual world.  After three workshops I realized these are a little bit like sending a letter to an agony aunt.  You have something to say, but expect to get someone else’s advice.  And can they talk in these workshops!

The next wave hit. 

Our students, often from disadvantaged backgrounds and rural areas, did not have the equipment or access to the internet to make e-learning work.

In Africa, there is a local clothing store, which provides cheap, colorful clothes at reasonable price to people.  The local clothing store became the distribution point in all rural areas for students who have no access to technology and data, and have to do paper based assessment.

As for me, I am skilled with technology, but often, it is not the knowledge that you transfer, but the questions you ask. I made a prompt decision to keep my online classes formal and well balanced. The basic instructions remain the same, despite the resources or technology used.  Be blunt, to the point. Tell the students what to do, and how to do it.  Be precise, say what you want from them and give guided instructions to get to the point.  Remain accessible, but keep to mutual respect and formal academic language.  It is as plain as you can, contact me, whenever you want, by sending an email.  Ensure to include documentation you are referring to and evidence of your attempts to master the outcomes.  Plan well ahead and submit in time.        

In Africa we built a bridge, one way or another, via a clothing store, and stay away from the water and the dam.

Dr Irene Muller, Lecturer, North West University, Vanderbijlpark Campus, South Africa


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A View from Tasmania: Has the pandemic influenced health and health behaviour?

Over the past four months humankind has endured a combination of forced challenges and changes that few in history have experienced. Underlying the need for these constraints is arguably the cornerstone to our existence – health. Amongst all the uncertainty, unpredictability, panic, and novelty that has become part of a newfound daily routine for many, perhaps individuals and broader society have had time to reflect upon health and its importance. Moreover, could it be that what we have lived through in recent months might actually present an opportunity to engage with our health and consider behaviour change? 

Within the Australian context, most parts of the country have had restrictions put in place. Interestingly, these restrictions have instigated a noticeable increase in physical activity behaviours such as bike riding, rollerblading, scooting, running, walking (including dog walking). Yes, there has been substantial modification in how many people have been dedicating their time; resulting in physical activity, recreation, and leisure activities being observable in streets, parks, courts, and on tracks. There are multiple benefits to this observable zest for movement in the outdoors, such as:

  • Family engagement through physical activity; connecting, communicating, and spending time together.
  • Breaking the cycle of being at home and staying at home; physical activity has proven to be a remedy for emotional and mental health stimulation and mindset.
  • Establishing new weekly and daily routines that feature physical activity as a regular component; in some cases, providing a foundation for planning around.
  • The development of fitness and fundamental movement skills through activities such as cycling, running, skating, scooting, and play; thus, promoting lifelong physical literacy through challenging balance, coordination, reaction time, agility, decision-making, and controlled risk taking.
  • Not relying on motorised vehicles for all travel. This has been confronting for many due to habitually relying on cars, however restrictions have forced this default behaviour to be tested.

Despite the broad and far-reaching negativity that has been portrayed by popular media since February, the benefits listed above have contributed to several positive outcomes; these are:

  • A realisation that we do have time for physical activity.
  • Reports that nationally bicycle sales have increased significantly, in some cases up to 150 – 200%.
  • Environmental health – the decrease in car use has dramatically reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Social health – physical activity has provided opportunities for people to come together, interact, and maintain relationships.

As the month of June comes to an end and restrictions ease, it is visible that Australians are reverting to their old routines and previously formed behaviours. Once again, the roads are filled with cars, rush and panic accompany school and work travel, urban noise has returned, and sadly there is less human movement in the outdoors. So, in spite of the conspicuous motivation for people to value their health during the pandemic I now find myself asking “is health important to people” and “what is required to cement health behaviour change”?   

Dr Casey Mainsbridge is Director of Student Engagement and Lecturer in Health and Physical Education at the College of Arts, Law, and Education, University of Tasmania.


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Observing Different Worlds: Action Research and the Musical Learning Community

Just as the COVID-19 pandemic began five members of the Action Research Network of the Americas established a foundation. The Musical Learning Action Research Community was approved. A month later, we had a fortunate encounter with another member working from Java, Indonesia, and now this action research community is working on 16 different projects to enrich and capture the cultural perspective of the current situation across continents.

We have been documenting the personal testimonies through education processes, video recordings, interviews, public dialogue, artistic creations, observations, and documents. In so doing we have analyzed the multiple ways in which people improvise and adapt to something so all consuming, and unexpected.

Around the world, we have observed the vast disparities prompted by current social systems. In Ecuador, we have seen how private universities were able to afford the migration to virtual platforms, capacitating faculty, and helping students. Meanwhile, public universities have been defunded, faculty dismissed, and students left to protest in the streets.

In North America, some schools were able to provide devices for every student to enjoy connectivity; others were not so fortunate. In South America, we observed cases where parents had to choose between risking their health by working the streets, or letting hunger be their families’ destiny. In parts of the Americas and Asia, we have seen how students had to wait for their parents to get back so they could share one phone among two or three siblings to connect with teachers.

Cultural differences between urban and rural responses to the pandemic have prompted us to reflect. In urban centers, confinement, curfews, and instilling fear in each other became the norm. Despite this in, Ecuador’s largest city, Guayaquil, corpses laid unattended to decompose in the streets after the health and funerary systems collapsed.

In contrast, rural areas relied heavily on their community work and used togetherness as the drive to overcome hardship. On the island of Java in Indonesia, there was a revalorization – the process of resetting the value of something – of the relationship with the soil and agriculture.

Such a process led to the development of farming initiatives to provide food to those in need.

Despite the geography that tries to distant us, we keep growing close. We have relied on each other to keep advancing educational, cultural, and artistic work. Without such togetherness, it would not have been possible to share this with you.

Musical Learning Community:

Víctor Manuel Rubio Carrillo, PhD candidate, Frost School of Music, University of Miami

With assistance from

Natalie Vanessa Lopez, Fulford Elementary School

Joshua Argueta, Sweetwater Elementary School

David Fernando Echeverría Valencia, Universidad de los Hemisferios

Sebastián López Prado, Colegio de Bachillerato en Artes Luis Humberto Salgado Torres

Cristina Duque, Indonesian Art Institute of Yogyakarta


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Racism and Me!

Black Lives Matter has been thrown into the news and all our consciousness following yet another black man’s death in the USA due to Police brutality. This has triggered a global reaction expressing the frustration of those who don’t feel that they are listened to.

Having been brought up in St. Helens after the war, I can honestly say the only minority ethnic people I experienced in my youth, apart from the staff at the Chinese Restaurant,  was a family up the road whose father was white and mother Asian. All I can remember was thinking how handsome their sons were and how beautiful their daughters. I never really thought about it otherwise.  

In the 60s though I would hear and tell all the ‘in’ jokes deriding black people along with the IRA and others whom we feared. Much later I visited apartheid South Africa to hear the very same jokes aimed at the ANC by white South Africans whilst some of our politicians labelled Nelson Mandela a terrorist. I was appalled by what I saw and became an avid anti-apartheid supporter on my return.

Working then in a West Midlands borough with a 20%+ minority ethnic population my work exposed all the racism that was etched in my mind through UK biased history lessons at school without a mention of Black History or the engagement of Commonwealth troops alongside my father during the war. The media’s negative portrayal of failed African leaders, crime in the black community, Islamic bogey men and mass immigration did not match up with the people I met with regularly.  These were worthy, able and committed community and religious leaders from across the Commonwealth and elsewhere who were proud appreciative citizens of the town and the UK.  Yes, we had our issues but we worked hard to work together for good.

As I was wrestling with my ‘built in’ racism, I went to Croatia during the Bosnian conflict with an aid convoy team from the town led by the emergency services. To see the Mosque in close proximity to the Catholic Cathedral and the Orthodox Church in Zagreb and then go and see how the Balkans was being torn apart in a hateful way whilst those three communities Bosnians, Croats and Serbs, supposed members of those three faith communities, attacked each other mercilessly. I was devastated by the hate being generated in that conflict and the animal instincts highlighted by the wrong sort of nationalism, greed and racial and religious stereotypes.

I’m still struggling with my racism but am completely committed to its eradication as my faith, my conscience and my conviction grows about us all being citizens of the good world that God created.

John Davis is Assistant Priest at St. Gabriel’s, Huyton and an ISR Visiting Fellow


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