Ethos Education

Euro 2012 Racism: What is Christianity’s response to racism?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Awareness of the consequences of prejudice and discrimination.
  • Recognition of the UK as a multi-ethnic society.
  • Understanding of Christian teaching that promotes racial harmony.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect upon a word association game.
  • Discuss a variety of news stories concerning fears of racist behaviour from supporters at the Euro 2012 football tournament.
  • Analyse comments by the Archbishop of York and the teaching of Jesus from the Bible to determine a Christian perspective of racial prejudice and discrimination.
  • Consider less obvious expressions of racial prejudice in society today.
  • Synthesise learning by writing a series of Tweets about one or more instances of alleged racist abuse.


Ask the students to play a word association game. Ask for a volunteer to say the first word that comes into their head when you say a series of words to them. You could either use a single volunteer or work your way around the room with each student (not necessarily the whole class) responding to just one word from the following list:

  • School
  • Weekend
  • Abuse
  • Language
  • Doctor
  • Insult
  • Sport
  • White
  • Black

Explain that in today’s lesson you are going to be thinking about the issue of racism and in particular looking at Christianity’s response to it.


Point out to the students that the build up to the Euro 2012 football tournament was marked with a number of news stories about racism. If your students are likely to be aware of the stories already, mention the individuals named below and see if your students can remember their contribution to the debate. Alternatively, you could give out copies of some or all of the news reports for the students to read through and summarise. If you do this, it might be quicker to give only one article each to different groups of students and allow each group to report back to the rest of the class.

Depending on which stories you use, and which ones seem to engage the students’ attention the most, choose some of the following questions to provoke further discussion:

  • Should UEFA have chosen to hold the tournament in countries with such a problem of racist behaviour from supporters?
  • Is Mario Balotelli right to say players should walk off if they receive racial abuse from supporters?
  • Is Michel Platini right to say that players should be booked if they do what Balotelli suggests, and that they should leave decisions about stopping games to the referee?
  • How easy is it to separate the issues of racism at football matches and the attitudes of wider society to racial issues?
  • Is Sol Campbell right to advise black supporters not to go to Poland and Ukraine to watch England at Euro 2012?

You could point out that while there have been a number of news stories relating to racial abuse in football in England this season, it certainly seems to be the case that England has been more successful than some other countries – including Poland and Ukraine – in dealing with racism at football matches. Fans who behave in a racially abusive manner in Britain can expect to receive lengthy stadium bans, and high profile cases of alleged on-pitch abuse by players are taken very seriously by both the Football Association and the police.

Another race-related Euro 2012 story concerns Roy Hodgson’s choice of his England squad. Earlier in the season Chelsea’s John Terry was accused of racially abusing QPR’s Anton Ferdinand during a match. As a result he was stripped of the England captaincy. Terry maintains his innocence and is awaiting his chance to clear his name in a court case scheduled for July (after the completion of Euro 2012).

England manager Roy Hodgson chose to select John Terry for his England squad, and to leave out Rio Ferdinand, Anton’s brother. There was much speculation that bad feeling between Rio Ferdinand and John Terry would make it difficult for both to be part of the squad, but Roy Hodgson publically stated that his selections were made for purely footballing reasons. Even when Gary Cahill (like Terry and Ferdinand, a central defender) had to withdraw from the squad with an injury, Hodgson chose to replace him with Martin Kelly, a young Liverpool defender. Many people speculated that Ferdinand’s absence from the squad was connected to the allegations about John Terry, and criticised Hodgson for favouring the (allegedly) guilty party rather than the person associated with the victim of abuse. Ferdinand himself tweeted ‘What reasons????’ after the decision to call up Kelly.

Do the students think that Ferdinand was left out for footballing reasons? If not, should Hodgson have chosen Terry ahead of Ferdinand, or vice versa?

Hodgson has offered an explanation for his decision not to call Ferdinand up as a replacement to Cahill – see Other commentators have speculated that Ferdinand’s long-standing injury concerns may have been a factor. His own club manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, has said that he doubts Ferdinand’s ability to cope with the schedule of an international tournament, and England’s decision to base the team in Poland despite playing all their group games in Ukraine means that Ferdinand (like the rest of the team) would have to endure regular lengthy flights between games, which would be far from ideal for Ferdinand’s ongoing problems with his back.

Ask the students how they would expect a Christian to respond to the football and racism stories? What would they expect a specifically Christian perspective on racism to be like?

Give out copies of the following article, where John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York added his contribution to a media debate about racism in 2007, after Jade Goody was made to leave the Celebrity Big Brother house after making comments that were deemed to be racially abusive.

Read through the article with the students and ask them what Archbishop Sentamu suggests is the root of prejudice, and therefore the reason for racist attitudes. Draw their attention to his reference to Martin Luther King’s remarks that ‘ignorance is the root of all prejudice’.

While it is true that opposing racism is not unique to Christians, both Archbishop Sentamu and Martin Luther King were motivated by the values and principles they derived from their Christian faith.

Explain that Jesus lived in a culture where racial prejudice was commonplace. Jesus challenged people to reject prejudice and to show love to others regardless of their race or religion. If you want to give some examples, you could refer to passages such as Mark 12:28-34 (Jesus tells his followers to love their neighbour) and Luke 10:25-37 (the parable of the Good Samaritan). Ask the students to read through either or both of these passages and to write brief notes suggesting how a Christian might interpret them to support the views expressed by Archbishop Sentamu.

Ask the students to think of ways in which racial prejudice affects some people in the United Kingdom. Encourage them to think widely, and to identify subtle effects of prejudice as well as the more obvious ones. By way of an example, you could point out that some black footballers have claimed that they do not get the same opportunities to forge careers in football management as their white counterparts. As the students identify examples of racial prejudice, write them up on the board. During the discussion, ask the students what ordinary people like them can do to oppose these examples of prejudice.


Ask the students to write a series of Twitter responses (remember, each separate Tweet should be no more than 140 characters, including blank spaces between words) to one or more of the recent footballing racism stories. The Tweets should be written to illustrate a Christian perspective on racism, and can include personal opinion (not necessarily that of the student), Bible references and editorial comment on the topical events. Students can decide whether to write a series of Tweets from one character, or to include an exchange of Tweets between multiple characters. If they opt for the latter, they should ensure that at least one character represents a specifically Christian perspective on racism.


  • Copies of articles about various football and racism stories.
  • Bibles.

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