The racially motivated murder of a black teenager in Liverpool, England, proves the “cancer of racism” still exists in the United Kingdom, says a Baptist leader in Great Britain.
Anthony Walker, 18, died after being attacked July 29 with an ax by a group of men in Liverpool. Described as a devout Christian and talented basketball player who hoped to become a lawyer, Walker was waiting at a bus stop in a predominantly white neighborhood with his white girlfriend and a male cousin before being taunted with racial slurs by a group of men.
The three left to apparently walk to another bus stop but were followed and attacked by at least four men. One man allegedly bludgeoned Walker with an ax. The girlfriend and cousin ran for help. When they returned they found him slumped on the ground with the ax embedded in his skull. He died early on Saturday, July 30, at a hospital.
The crime revived memories of the stabbing death of another black teenager, Stephen Lawrence, by racists in 1993. The investigation turned into one of Scotland Yard’s longest and biggest murder cases. The trial collapsed in 1996 amid accusations of institutionalized police racism. No one was ever convicted in Lawrence’s murder.
It also is reminiscent of the 1998 murder in Jasper, Texas, of James Byrd, a 49-year-old black man dragged to death behind a pickup truck, whose killing came to symbolize racism and hatred in the United States.
Wade Hudson-Roberts, racial justice coordinator of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, said the crime illustrates that race relations are in “a precarious place” in the UK.
“The reality is young innocent black and Asian people are still subject to the horrors of societal racism and its legacy,” Hudson-Roberts said in The Baptist Times.
Baptist Times Editor Mark Woods called Walker’s death “a tragic and shocking reminder that the crudest forms of racism are still very much with us–there is something wrong.”
News of the attack also comes amid reports of rising numbers of religious hate crimes against Muslims and Asians in light of recent bombings in London and calls for deportation of anyone preaching hatred of Christians or the West.
“Our experience–historically as Baptists, and today as Christians–should lead us to stand up for all those who suffer for being who they are, no matter how they are defined,” Woods wrote in an editorial.
A 20-year-old man and 17-year-old juvenile have been arrested and charged with Walker’s murder. The tragedy has become a rallying point for various groups concerned about racism.
A benefit concert is being planned in Walker’s memory in a few weeks. A basketball tournament was held in his honor last weekend. More than 3,000 people attended a candlelight vigil following his death. His funeral is scheduled next Thursday, nearly a month after his death, at Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool
The son of Jamaican immigrants, Walker was an “A” student active at Grace Family Church, a non-denominational charismatic congregation in Liverpool.
“He is a devoted Christian. He danced, he sang, he played in the band and gave much of his life to others,” his 20-year-old sister, Dominique, told an Internet news provider.
His mother, 49-year-old Gee Verona, sings in a gospel choir and teaches children with learning disabilities.
“Anthony’s life on this earth was brief, but in the short span of time that he was with us he was an integral part of our family at Grace,” his pastor, Diana Stacey, said on a Web site set up in his honor. “It is hard to imagine life in our church without him.”
The site went on to describe him: “Anthony was always ready to serve, constantly helping the youth leader. If he was asked to sing, despite the embarrassment of it, Anthony would do it with one thing on his mind, God. When it came to rapping he had the lyrics, when it came to basketball he had the tricks, and his dancing skills were of a very high quality. Yet not one minute of his life did he boast of these talents. He used them to glorify God.”
Joel Edwards of the Evangelical Alliance, an umbrella group representing more than 1 million evangelical Christians in the UK, pledged to pray for the family and to stand with Grace Family Church, a member of the Alliance.
Katei Kirby, chief executive officer of the African and Caribbean Evangelical Alliance, a group formed in 1984 to promote unity, understanding and reconciliation among Christians in the UK, decried “the brutal murder of a young black man who had all the hallmarks of a model citizen” as “not only criminal, but wicked.”
The Anglican bishop of Liverpool expressed horror at the slaying.
Hudson-Roberts of the Baptist Union of Great Britain said he was concerned that broader implications of the crime could “set society back” and called on churches to educate their congregations that racism is repugnant to God.
“Not to do so is to fail to be Christ, because Christ is all-inclusive and all-embracing,” he said.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.