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Setting free the hearts and minds of young people: conference to explore Bicentenary themes


An ecumenical conference for church youth workers will consider how the legacies of slavery in all its forms can still impact minority ethnic young people today, as the Bicentenary year of the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade comes to a close.

Coming at the end of Black History Month and being held during National Youth Work Week*, the conference will explore how youth work advisers and leaders can engage with the legacy of slavery to help and support young people to ‘free their minds’ and build positive relationships within their families, their journeys of Christian faith, and their wider communities.

The conference is taking place next week in London and is organised by the Youth Issues working group of the Church of England’s Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns. Participants at the event will reflect on the passage in John’s Gospel where Jesus declares that His disciples will “know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-33).

The organisers hope to examine whether understanding the complex personal and societal issues of self-esteem, group belonging, career aspirations and racial justice can be assisted by reflecting on history.

The ‘think tank’ event will include contributions from a number of guest speakers, including Angela Sarkis CBE, National Secretary of the YMCA. These addresses will be followed by discussion on how the themes raised could be applied to youth work today, across urban, suburban, rural, educational and recreational contexts.

Dean Pusey, conference co-convenor and youth officer for the Diocese of Southwark, said: “This event will try and get to the core of what the Bicentenary really means for youth work and youth ministry. We will be exploring how all of us engaged in working with young people can help present the freedom that Christ offers in a way that has meaning for them, and how we can reflect that through worship, through activities, and through the way we relate with them on a personal level”.

The event follows a number of high-profile events to mark the Bicentenary as part of the Church of England’s ‘Making our Mark’ project, including March’s Walk of Witness through London, where 3,000 Christians commemorated the anniversary.




*The National Youth Agency's Youth Work Week 2007 is taking place from 1st - 7th November. The theme is All Different All Equal. For more information click here.


Mental health

The mental health charity MIND reports: “A study of adolescent psychiatric inpatients found that those from the black communities (African, Caribbean and British) were over-represented among those admitted with a psychotic disorder, compared to those from white groups. They were also more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act, and to have been born outside the UK and have a refugee background. This suggests that while they may well be subject to discrimination within the system, they may also be more vulnerable to serious mental health problems because of early life experiences.”

Reference:  Tolmac, J. and Hodes, M. 2004, 'Ethnic variation among adolescent psychiatric in-patients with psychotic disorders', Br J Psychiatry, vol 184, 428-431; quoted here.



The conference is taking place during a year where there have been more than 20 gun or gang related deaths of young people across the country. Many of the victims and perpetrators of these crimes are minority ethnic young people. It is also a year in which public debate over the role and targeting of police ‘stop and search’ powers has continued.



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