Scottish churches will walk to commemorate slave trade abolition

By staff writers
March 11, 2007

Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS), the official ecumenical body bringing together Catholics, Protestants and Anglicans, has confirmed that a Commemoration Walk to mark the Bi-Centenary of the passing of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in 1807 will take place on Sunday the 25 of March in Musselburgh - exactly 200 years from the day the Abolition Act was passed.

In a letter sent to the denominations and church agencies in Scotland, ACTS encourages Christians to join in the walk which would seek to trace "in imagination" the footsteps of Robert Wedderburn, the son of a Rosanna, a black Jamaican slave, and James Wedderburn her Scottish master.

In 1795 Robert came from Jamaica to visit his father who now lived in Inveresk Lodge, which he had bought with money from his sugar plantation in Jamaica. Robert's father did not acknowledge him and it was left to one of his servants to send him away with "a cracked sixpence".

Robert Wedderburn later became a well known anti-slavery campaigner in England.
The Communities Minister Rhona Brankin MSP has announced her intention to participate in the walk. Lord Wedderburn of Charlton, a descendant of Robert Wedderburn, and his wife also plan to be present.

The walk will set out at 14.30 from the small band stand in the riverside gardens beside the "Roman" bridge (opposite Inveresk Road) and follow the River Esk Walkway to Inveresk Lodge Gardens.

Hundreds of events are being organized throughout Britain to mark the end of the transatlantic slave trade. But the celebrations also raise important issues about how peoples and nations can take proper responsibility for the past.

In particular, descendents of slaves believe that apologies and acts of reparation are appropriate, because the economic wealth of present generations was mortgaged on the suffering of the past.

The invitation letter to Scottish churches declares: “Come along and share in this event during which we will - mark the success of the efforts of those, slave and free, in Scotland and elsewhere, who struggled to end the slave trade - remember the suffering and inhumane treatment inflicted on those who were enslaved and - recognise that Scots were complicit in the trade and profited from it.”

It adds: “Share too in demonstrating that the Churches care about and are prepared to fight against the modern forms of slavery - trafficking, forced and bonded labour, which still require to be overcome.”

Recently Catholics, other Christians and civic leaders joined in a marking of the ending of the trade in Bristol, southwest England, a city directly involved in slave shipments.

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