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Joint response by leading anti-racism organisations to the Church of England Oversight Group’s report on historic links to the slave trade

BY BEO | 18/03/2024

In light of the recommendations made by the Oversight Group to the Church of England Commissioners concerning the Church’s response to historic links to slavery, we issue this joint response as leading anti-racism organisations.

We echo the fact that no amount of money can make up for the long-lasting harms caused by the transatlantic slave trade, and the continued legacy of systemic racism and inequities it has fostered. The aspirational target of £1bn continues to be insufficient in redressing the vast wealth accumulated by institutions like the Church Commissioners through the trade of enslaved humans.

These recommendations do, however, represent a step in the right direction. We support the bold work of the Black-led oversight group in highlighting the continued effects of the transatlantic slave trade, particularly given the reluctance of many other public institutions to engage with the topic of reparations.

That said, we await further details on how these plans will be implemented. It is vitally important that these funds are used to foster tangible, long-term change in a global context. We acknowledge and echo members of the Oversight Group, in their assertion that this initiative must not be a tokenistic gesture to absolve the Church Commissioners and the Church of England of any feelings of historical complicity, and instead it must demonstrate a commitment to meaningful impact for our communities. We also must see a commitment by the Church of England to advancing racial equity more broadly, combining this with other approaches to holistically embed anti-racism going forward.

We call on the Church Commissioners to undertake the next steps with the utmost transparency, and to work with organisations, like the undersigned, who have both lived experience and practical knowledge on the best means to achieve long-lasting change. This will include engaging with community organisations to jointly create the processes for distributing grants and investments, to ensure that this process doesn’t replicate the same power dynamics that it seeks to address.

Finally, we stress the need for other institutions across the UK, including the British Government, to interrogate the extent to which they have benefitted from the slave trade, and to proactively address its ongoing and long-term consequences.

Timi Okuwa
Chief Executive, BEO

Michael Buraimoh
Chief Executive, ROTA

Shabna Begum
Interim CEO, Runnymede Trust

Kunle Olulode
Director, V4CE