Apology for transatlantic slave trade

By Press Office
March 21, 2007

Following London Mayor Ken Livingstone's article on the Guardian's Comment is Free web site, saying that London should apologise for slavery, Ekklesia's director Jonathan Bartley said:

"Ken Livingstone is right, that London, and indeed Britain should apologise for its part in the transatlantic slave trade.

"The Government has expressed only 'regret' which is a world away from expressions of apology. Apology carries a sense of responsibility, whilst the rhetoric of regret implies sorrow that things worked out the way they did - without the acceptance of liability.

"Government advisors reportedly fear that claims for reparations might be made. For hundreds of years Africa was bled of its human resources, and the continent's development was severely stunted. It still suffers from the consequences. Britain on the other hand gained huge financial wealth from which it still benefits.

"An apology however begs the question about how the anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade should be dealt with. The Jewish and Christian traditions suggest that remembrance is not enough. There must also be tangible attempts to make things right again. The unfashionable word to describe how this might be done is 'repentance'. But this is not about apportioning blame and guilt. Rather it is a way of freeing ourselves from the legacy of the past, turning around and finding a new direction in which to make restitution.

"The best commemoration would involve imagining what a new relationship with Africa might look like. It would mean greater efforts to cancel debt and tackle the threats of climate change from which it will suffer more than most. It might mean finding ways to open our borders and provide greater access to our scarce resources. In short it would mean reconsideration of the claim that the continent might have on us. For it is we who still reap the rewards from the human trafficking of the past."

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