Archbishop joins calls for slave trade apology

By staff writers
25 Mar 2007

The Archbishop of York has joined calls by other church leaders and politicians for the British Prime Minister to make a formal apology for its part in the transatlantic slave trade.

The call from the second most senior cleric in the Church of England came during the commemorations marking the 200th anniversary of its abolition in the British Empire.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed regret for Britain's role in the trade and expressed "deep sorrow" for slavery which was abolished by parliament on March 25, 1807. However, he has always stopped short of issuing a full apology as many African states have asked for over many years.

Last week the leader of the World Council of Churches - which brings together Christians from many of the world's major denominations and traditions asked Prime Minister Tony Blair to change his mind and make an apology for Britain's involvement in the slave trade.

Mayor of London Ken Livingstone also made an apology on behalf of the nation’s capital.

In January, director of the thinktank Ekklesia Jonathan Bartley, also told Radio 4 that whilst apology carried a sense of responsibility, the rhetoric of regret implied sorrow that things worked out the way they did -- without the acceptance of liability. An apology was necessary in the attempts to address the legacy of slavery, he said.

Now, the Archbishop of York John Sentamu has also said Blair needs to go further.

"A nation of this quality should have the sense of saying we are very sorry and we have to put the record straight," he told the BBC.

"This community was involved in a very terrible trade, Africans were involved in a very terrible trade, the Church was involved in a very terrible trade ... it's important that we all own up to what was collectively done."

Sentamu joined about 3,600 others in marches through central London on Saturday as part of a series of events in Britain to mark the anniversary of the abolition of the brutal trade.
"The easiest thing in the world is to look back 200 years and say we wouldn't have made those mistakes," the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said.

Between 10 million and 28 million Africans were shipped in appalling conditions to the Americas and sold into slavery between 1450 and the early 19th century.

When Britain abolished the trade it was the first major slave-trafficking nation to do so.

Although the practice was outlawed, the lucrative trade continued for many years with ship captains, facing heavy fines, not hesitating to dump their human cargoes overboard if they were caught.

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