US civil rights campaigner Jesse Jackson is to visit British churches in an effort to help them do more to promote racial justice.
During his visit next week, Jackson will address the involvement of minority ethnic communities in economic development and the building of a just society. He will also look at the empowerment of black and ethnic minority young people.
He will primarily be based in London during his visit, but will travel to Oxford where he will lecture on freedom and education within the context of the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, and also about his political vision in light of next year's US presidential elections.
In 2005, a delegation from Churches Together in Britain and Ireland visited the USA to see at first hand how Christians in America, with Jesse Jackson at the forefront, continue to fight for racial justice.
Andy Bruce, who has lead responsibility within CTBI's racial justice team (until recently known as the Churches' Commission for Racial Justice) said: "In 2007, the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act has highlighted the powerful impact of racial injustice upon life in our own society. The British government says it regrets slavery but has not been willing to make an apology, minority ethnic communities continue to suffer disproportionate levels of poverty, crime and social disadvantage, and cultural identity remains one of the most pressing and controversial issues of the day.
"Issues such as gun crime, political disengagement, institutional racism, economic marginalisation, and a sense of cultural alienation remain at the top of the agenda. The insights and perspective Jesse Jackson will bring to Britain and Ireland from his 40 years of social justice work in the US will surely inspire and empower those who continue the struggle on this side of the Atlantic."
In a full programme in Oxford, Jesse Jackson will be the guest of Regent's Park College, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary year as a permanent private hall of Oxford University. His visit to the college will mark and celebrate this anniversary, and Regent's will, in a special ceremony, honour Jesse Jackson by making him an honorary fellow of the college.
Among other engagements, Mr Jackson will launch ASPIRE, a major research and empowerment initiative of Regent's Park College in collaboration with Canterbury Christ Church University, and CTBI's racial justice team.
ASPIRE will carry out research into the reasons behind today's under-representation of black young people in higher education in Britain, and investigate and promote ways to improve access to universities for this group of people. This project stands firmly in the tradition of Regent's Park College, which was founded in the 18th century to enable Protestant dissenters enter higher education. At the time, and until 1854, nonconformist Christians were denied entrance to England's only two universities of Oxford and Cambridge, which accepted only members of the Church of England. ASPIRE will also develop links with young black people, take practical steps to inspire them with the vision of higher education, and encourage their application to higher education institutions.
The visit takes place from Sunday 11th to Wednesday 14th November.