Dr John Sentamu was a pivotal figure in the successful campaign by Stephen’s parents Doreen and Neville to take on an institutionally racist Metropolitan Police and finally bring their son’s killers to justice.
As Bishop of Stepney in east London at the time 18-year-old Stephen was stabbed to death in Eltham, London, on April 22, 1993, he offered comfort to the grieving Lawrence family as they came to terms with their loss before becoming standard-bearers in the struggle against racism.
Writing exclusively in today’s Yorkshire Post, the Archbishop acknowledges that considerable progress has been achieved in the past two decades.
However, he warns: “The elimination of racism remains a serious task for all of us. For racism is like an invidious and devastating cancer in society, attacking community structures and all its components.
“We may congratulate ourselves that it has been eradicated in one place and we can relax, but sadly it often turns up somewhere else, with slightly different characteristics – this time perhaps focussed on asylum seekers, or Eastern European workers. Wherever it is found, it must be fought.
“As we remember Stephen Lawrence at this time, strong feelings are never far away. There may be grief, righteous anger, deep regret, fear of the violence which may still lie in wait not only outside, but within our communities.”
The scale of the challenge, added Dr Sentamu, is illustrated by the Lawrence family’s decision to bury Stephen in Jamaica, a decision vindicated by the memorial plaque marking the place of his death being desecrated on countless occasions.
“We must find a new attitude, a new readiness to approach one another as human beings,” adds the Archbishop.
x-ref to op-ed