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Anglican archbishops to lead slavery repentance march in London

The Church of England, in acknowledging its involvement in the slave trade, will take part in an act of repentance by thousands of Anglicans, including its spiritual head, planned for 24 March.

Marchers from throughout Britain are expected to meet in London for a procession led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and his second in command, the Archbishop of York, the Ugandan-born John Sentamu, organizers said. The march marks 200 years since the abolition of the slave trade in the-then British Empire.

A giant cross will be carried and African drummers will beat a lament for those marching through the British capital. They will pause for reflection at several places before an open air service in London’s Kennington Park. There they will be invited to sign a petition calling on the government to take more action to end modern-day slavery in the world.

Separately, regarding what is considered a modern form of slavery, human trafficking, the moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Rev. Alan McDonald, has welcomed news that Britain is to sign up to the European Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings.

This measure, which has already been backed by more than 30 countries, will give victims of human trafficking the right to stay in Britain for a 30-day period of "recovery and reflection".

Commenting in a 23 January statement, McDonald said: "The previous situation – where victims of human trafficking and sex slavery faced immediate deportation to their country of origin – was cruel and inhuman."

The Anglican decision to commemorate the 1807 Abolition of the Slave Trade Act with an act of "repentance and confession" was taken by the Church of England’s synod in 2006. There, it apologised to the descendants of those held as slaves for the church’s own involvement in the trade.

The synod had been told that the church owned a Barbados plantation through its missionary arm, the Society for the Propagation of the Faith in Foreign Parts, where slaves had been branded with a mark of ownership.

The Church of England’s precise involvement in the trade is still being researched and a church spokesperson told Ecumenical News International that a grant of 50 000 British pounds had been received from the National Lottery to undertake a research project for which academics are being recruited.

(c) Ecumenical News International