Nelson Mandela’s widow Graca Machel has implored anti-racism campaigners not to tear down statues because they serve as grave reminders of past atrocities.
The activist said: ‘I believe even it might be much more positive to keep them because you are going to tell generations to come “this is how it started and this is how it should never be.”‘
Her remarks put her at loggerheads with the Archbishop of Canterbury, who today revealed he would be reviewing statues at Canterbury Cathedral.
Justin Welby said monuments would be looked at ‘very carefully’ to see if they all ‘should be there’.
In a wide-ranging interview, he also urged the West to reconsider its prevailing mindset that Jesus was white, and pointed to different portrayals of Christ as Black or Middle Eastern in different countries.
The two figures waded into the heated statue debate at a time when monuments of controversial figures are under the microscope.
But Machel, the widow of the former prisoner-turned-South African president, who campaigned against apartheid, stressed that historic sculptures were important to learn the lessons of the past.
Speaking to BBC Today, she said: ‘It is not the issue of bringing down a statue which is going to resolve the ills of the past.
‘What is important is to look at the history of what is it which brought us to the situation where we are.
‘And of course you have to see who are the architects of the past. But I believe even it might be much more positive to keep them because you are going to tell generations to come “this is how it started and this is how it should never be”.
‘So I’m not really concerned with bringing down and breaking the statues. I know this is controversial but, you know, we need to have the memory and some of those symbols remind us, and they make the memory still valid.’
On the same programme, the head of the Church of England was asked if the ‘way the western church portrays Jesus needs to be thought about again’.
He immediately replied: ‘Yes of course it does, this sense that God was white… You go into churches (around the world) and you don’t see a white Jesus.
‘You see a black Jesus, a Chinese Jesus, a Middle Eastern Jesus – which is of course the most accurate – you see a Fijian Jesus.’
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Source: Daily Mail