The Daily Telegraph

UK ‘obligated’ to pay slavery reparation­s

- By Gabriella Swerling SOCIAL AND RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS EDITOR

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.

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