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Slave trade was ‘African holocaust’ say church groups

The transatlantic slave trade was an "African holocaust" that should never be forgotten, says a coalition of global church bodies that has called on churches, governments and businesses to repent for their part in the trade.

"The global slave trade removed some of the most productive peoples in Africa, resulting in the African holocaust," said delegates representing the World Council of Churches, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Council for World Mission in a statement issued on 22 March following a meeting in Geneva.

The statement called on "churches, governments and businesses who were unjustly enriched by the slave trade not only to repent but to demonstrate fruits of that repentance".

The call came in advance of the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the passing of the "Abolition of the Slave Trade Act" on 25 March 1807 by the British parliament. The act ended the trading in slaves in the then British Empire.

In a letter to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, WCC general secretary the Rev. Samuel Kobia, a Methodist from Kenya, said European nations needed to "begin a process of truth telling, repentance and reconciliation" about their role in the slave trade.

"People of African descent in diaspora and in Africa await an unambiguous apology and clear sign from European nations that acknowledges their participation in this terrible part of colonial history," said Kobia.

WARC general secretary the Rev. Setri Nyomi, a Ghanaian, noted in a statement how "millions of Africans were captured, brutalised and murdered in the name of economic gain" through the slave trade. "Let us commit ourselves to making that kind of enslavement a thing of the past," he said.

Roderick Hewitt of Jamaica, moderator of CWM, described the slave trade as a structure that brought about the "unjust enrichment of the few through the exploitation of the vulnerable". He said, "This global economic structure is mirrored today in the neoliberal economic framework, and needs to be so identified and addressed."

The WCC groups more than 340 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians; WARC brings together 75 million Reformed Christians in 214 churches; CWM groups 31 churches sharing resources to promote Christian mission

(c) Ecumenical News International