"We can't hide our history" Cardinal suggests UK teaches history in "less selective way"

13 June 2020, 13:42 | Updated: 13 June 2020, 15:07

By Seán Hickey

The UK must approach history with "openness and balance" in future to avoid tensions surrounding race in the future, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales said.

Matt Frei asked "do you for instance think that Churchill's statue should be consigned to a museum because that's where it can be given more context." Cardinal Vincent Nichols disagreed and insisted that context should be given in the classroom, arguing for an overhaul in how we learn about our past.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols is the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. He was initially speaking to Matt Frei in relation to how people have been spiritually impacted by lockdown and whether places of worship can open as lockdown eases, but conversation turned quickly to anti-racism protests that have been focal to conversation in Britain for the past few weeks.

Cardinal Nichols told Matt that he has "spent time listening to people" and learned that the images from America of the death of George Floyd "brings back floods of memories for many many black people, so I can understand how that can be a traumatic moment."

"Everybody's history is full of ambiguities" he expanded, and called for the UK to "teach history in a less selective way" if we are to tackle the debate head on in the future. He conceded that "we can't hide our history, we need to approach it with an openness and a balance."

Cardinal Nichols went on to point out the evidence of racism in the UK today, sharing conversations he has had with black people in his home of Liverpool. "They do experience a different administration of justice than someone like me" he said and insisted that this must stop.

The head of the Catholic Church in England felt the UK must be more open in it's telling of it's history
The head of the Catholic Church in England felt the UK must be more open in it's telling of it's history. Picture: PA

Matt wondered "how much more do we have to do to look into our past in this country", mentioning the "poor conversation we've had about our colonial past" in schools and society. He was curious of how Cardinal Nichols felt we could transform how we address the past.

The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales noted how the absence of this teaching has reflected in the modern day.

"There are millions of slaves in the world today" he reminded Matt and argued that this is because there is no intensive teaching of slavery in British schools.

"It's how the past relates to the present" he said, suggesting that should the UK have addressed slavery and racism effectively in the past, we may be witnessing less hostile scenes now.

The cardinal urged the public to open up dialogue and learn from each other through this process. "We have a chance to listen to the upsurge of indignation and outrage that's sparked by that killing on the streets and we really have to listen to all the echoes of that."

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