Church offers apology for slave trade

Published February 11, 2006

LONDON, Feb 10: The Church of England on Thursday apologised for its historical role in the slave trade, accepting it was directly implicated in it.

At a meeting of the Church’s synod in London it recognised “the damage done to those who are the heirs of those who were enslaved”.

It voted to apologise during a debate on the “dehumanising and shameful” consequences of slavery, abolished in Britain in 1807.

The Church was implicated through its Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts and the properties it owned overseas, notably in Barbados in the West Indies.

The Reverend Simon Bessant recalled how slaves owned by the Church had the word “society” branded on their chests.

He also recalled how when slaves were freed the only people to be compensated financially were their owners.

The bishop of Exeter in western England and three business partners received an enormous sum, for the times, in exchange for the emancipation of the 665 slaves of whose services they were suddenly deprived.

“We were at the heart of it, we were directly responsible for what happened,” Bessant said.

“In the sense of inheriting our history we can say we owned slaves, that is why I believe we must actually recognise our history and offer an apology.” —AFP

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