Justice and Compassion, Black Lives Matter: Co-exist
This piece has been written by Dr Zain Hussain & Dr Nathan Ng
In the wake of the unjust killing of George Floyd, an African-American, in police custody in Minneapolis (May 2020), Dr Zain Hussain and Dr Nathan Ng voice their just and compassionate commitment to naming and addressing BAME struggles in the University, the UK, and globally. They describe the Edinburgh Coexistence initiative, which they set up as students, to promote greater understanding, flourishing and joy between people of different religious, spiritual and belief backgrounds.
First and foremost, we wish to pay our respects to George Floyd, a 47 year old African-American, who died recently in the face of police brutality in the US. Recent events have highlighted the fact that things have not changed as they should have, and that institutional racism is still rife and prevalent in society. It is imperative that we face these issues together, and so, we would like to publicly re-state and re-affirm, that our society and the University, take a zero-tolerance approach to racism, xenophobia and any other form of hate crime or discrimination. We are proud to support a diverse student body in Edinburgh, and the prevailing atmosphere of respect and mutual acceptance. Our society was built on the foundations of inclusion and compassion, and, as part of the Chaplaincy, we have been actively working to promote racial and religious harmony, by creating a safe space for all. We recognise that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students still face racism and marginalisation and we therefore remain driven in our goal, especially of supporting BAME students during their time at this university.
The Edinburgh Coexistence Initiative was set up by a group of undergraduate students committed to promoting greater understanding and interfaith dialogue between people of different religious and spiritual backgrounds, and belief systems. Our society has served as a platform for inclusion and empowerment and to-date has worked towards challenging many of the misconceptions found in our societies, including on gender roles, sexuality, mental health and racial inequality. We also believe that better engagement and a shared understanding of religion is of benefit to those with and without faith, helps remove barriers in society and promotes positive relations and harmony among all communities. We have held a number of academic discussions (or “circles”), interfaith panels and potlucks to this end, and were honoured to receive the Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) “Place for All Award” this year.
We commend the timely initiatives being undertaken by our University, including the internal review into BAME communities, interrogating the role of the University in slavery and colonialism and the launch of a hub for research and teaching on race and ethnicity. However, there is so much more than we as a community can do to further this cause, and truly create change in our society and future generations - ensuring we address racism, and treat each other with dignity, respect and compassion. Students who have any ideas they want to put forward to the university are more than welcome to approach ourselves or the Chaplaincy first for support and advice, and we also urge anyone who is worried about the wellbeing of themselves, their friends or families, to contact the University’s Counselling Service, and also the Chaplaincy. We are striving to do what we can to alleviate student anxieties around the current situation, and will continue to challenge the status quo of institutional racism moving forward.
The importance of love and compassion in these times can also not be understated. Compassion is attentiveness to the suffering of ourselves and others, with the wisdom and steps taken to relieve it. It calls forth action, but with the wisdom to know when, how and what is required. The time to fight for equality for all is now. It is no longer acceptable to stand on the sidelines.
We ask those who do not face racism, to never remain silent in the face of racism, and that we all educate ourselves on anti-black racism, to ensure we do whatever we can, both individually and collectively, to actively help and support our BAME and wider communities.
Dr Zain Hussain & Dr Nathan Ng Founding President & Vice President, Edinburgh Coexistence Initiative
Class of 2020 MBChB graduates
The Edinburgh Coexistence Initiative is housed in The Chaplaincy, and its committee has representatives from a range of societies on campus, including: Islamic Society of Edinburgh University, Edi J-soc, Edinburgh University Anglican Society, Edinburgh University Buddhist Society, Edinburgh University Baha'i Society, CSU Edinburgh (Catholic Students' Union) and the University of Edinburgh Atheist, Humanist, and Secularist Society. The society has also worked in partnership with the Edinburgh Interfaith Association and Interfaith Scotland.