Enoch Powell 40 years on, not rivers of blood but ice

Racial segregation is troubling our government and there is a strong desire to do something about it, but what can the government do? I live in the multi-cultural constituency next door to the one where Enoch Powell was MP for 24 years. He left the Conservative party to join the Ulster Unionists in 1974 and made his infamous “rivers of blood” speech 40 years ago yesterday (20th April 1978).

Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), marked the 40th anniversary of Enoch Powell’s speech in an address on the matter of racial segregation in the UK. Phillips pointed out that Powell’s predictions of violence between races had not come true but that

we have seen the emergence of a kind of cold war in some parts of the country, where very separate communities exist side by side… with poor communication across racial or religious lines.

Wolverhampton has been described as less of a city and more of a collection of tribes and villages, with around 80 ethnic groups. Our local community action group organises an annual fun day, where community groups set up stalls and promote their activities. There is the the scouts (white, middle class), the Caribbean association, various Asian ladies well-being groups, an Asian dance group, a gospel choir and others. At the last two fun days St Luke’s church was the only multi-cultural group. I don’t expect it to be different this year.

they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)

There is little or nothing the government can do. This multicultural government wants social cohesion without God. This will not happen because faith and cultural identity are so closely entwined in many ethnic groups. In Malaysia it was said “to be Malay is to be Muslim”. In Blakenhall, to be Sikh is to be Punjabi. The Church of England is hardly an exception to this rule. I am regularly embarrassed by how white and middle class the members of the clergy are and this is reflected in our churches. There are signs of change at the top and at the fringes. The most famous bishops in the country are arguably Michael Nazir-Ali and John Sentamu.

Churches in multi-cultural settings need to work hard so that they don’t become homogenous but instead reflect the reality of Revelation 5. As Christ redeems people by his death for their sin he makes them members of kingdom so his reign is seen on the earth.

Tim Keller said churches need to work hard on making the leadership of churches multi-cultural. Our church wardens are Jamaican and God has been pleased to answer our prayers for ministry trainees who are not white and middle class. One is coming from Ghana and the other is an Asian South African. It will be much harder work for the leadership to understand each other due to a lack of shared cultural assumptions, but the hard work will be worth it for Christ’s sake and glory. Perhaps, then, the government will take notice.

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