The Daily Telegraph
UK ‘obligated’ to pay slavery reparations
A CAMBRIDGE University dean is the first senior clergyman to call for the British Government to pay reparations for the slave trade as part of its “obligation” to undo the “original injustice”.
The Revd Dr Michael Banner said that the British were the “leading perpetrators of the horrors” of slavery and that the “question of making recompense for them has to be faced”.
The call for reparations for the descendants of slavery is popular across campuses in the US. However, the dean, fellow and director of Theology and Religious Studies at Trinity College, is believed to be the first member of the clergy in the UK to make the claims.
He argued that the paying of reparations does not amount to “a demand for a pile of cash”, but instead “proposes a more holistic healing of the wounds of colonialism”. He also told The Daily Telegraph that he discussed his views with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby. He said that the Archbishop described his arguments as “challenging”.
Speaking at the Society for the Study of Christian Ethics conference last week, he said: “We surely have reparative obligations and others have a claim on us where we are manifestly the beneficiaries of an original injustice and where others identifiably still suffer on account of it.”
His comments come as campuses across the UK struggle to reconcile their links to their colonial past in the wake of the Rhodes Must Fall movement and are likely to spark debate not just at the University of Cambridge, but also in political circles as ministers continue to deal with statues deemed controversial.
Dr Banner added: “If the descendants of the original victims of colonial exploitation still suffer as a result of these injustices, are we modern Britons beneficiaries of those wrongs? Again the answer must be ‘yes’. Sometimes when institutions such as colleges or universities consider their connections with slavery, they look for evidence that the institution or its benefactors directly held enslaved people, or had wealth manifestly derived from owning plantations, and consider themselves in the clear if no such connection is found. It seems to be taken for granted, in other words, that any accrual of wealth from slavery in the past has materially benefitted the institution in the present.”
The FCDO and Church of England were contacted for comment.