Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, has spoken of the “eternal shame” of the Church of England (CofE) in connection with the transatlantic slave trade.
The archbishop who was in Ghana for a meeting with the Anglican Consultative Council had toured around and also visited the “slave holes”, a notorious hub of the slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Welby visited Ghana’s Cape Coast Castle, a former British slave trade hub, where he walked through cramped cells and passed through the “door of no return” – the last threshold slaves passed through before being shipped across the Atlantic. He was accompanied by Ghanaian government officials and religious leaders, who welcomed the archbishop and spoke of the importance of acknowledging and confronting the past.
The archbishop used the opportunity to speak candidly about the Church of England’s involvement in the slave trade, saying that it was a “source of shame” for the church. He emphasized the need for the church to confront this part of its history, saying that it was “not just a historical footnote, but a live issue.”
He also made an apology on behalf of the Church of England, saying, “I’m sorry, deeply sorry for the actions of those who were involved in the slave trade in the past.” He went on to say that the church must take responsibility for its past and work towards making amends.
Archbishop Justin Welby’s comment on the slave hole visit goes thus;
“It was profoundly moving and humbling to visit Cape Coast Castle today with my brother Archbishops from Ghana and Jamaica. It was a reminder that the abomination of transatlantic chattel slavery was blasphemy: those who imprisoned men and women in those dungeons saw them as less than human.
“It is to the Church of England’s eternal shame that it did not always follow Christ’s teaching to give life. It is a stain on the wider church that some Christians did not see their brothers and sisters as created in the image of God, but as objects to be exploited.
“Our response must begin on our knees in prayer and repentance. In calling on the God who blesses the broken, the reviled and those who mourn. In looking to God who transforms, redeems and reconciles. “But our response does not end there. We are called to transform unjust structures, to pursue peace and reconciliation, to live out the Beatitudes in big ways and small.”
The Archbishop’s visit to Ghana is part of a wider initiative by the CofE to address its links to the slave trade and has been widely praised by campaigners and historians.
The visit comes at a time of increased public attention on the issue of racial justice and the legacies of slavery. The CofE’s initiative to address its past links to the slave trade is part of a broader conversation about how societies can confront and make amends for historical injustices.