A Church of England charity has been strongly criticised by the country of Barbados.
Earlier this month, United Society Partners in the Gospel (USPG) pledged £7m to Barbados over the next 10 to 15 years, in reparations for its past links to two slave plantations. Under its former name, the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel, the charity had benefited from the labour of enslaved people on the Codrington Estate in Barbados during the 18th and early 19th centuries.
In seeking to redress its past, the charity set up a long term initiative called Renewal & Reconciliation: The Codrington Reparations Project, in partnership with Codrington Trust and Church in the Province of the West Indies in Barbados.
A statement from the charity reads:
“At its heart, reparatory justice seeks to make amends for past wrongs and to provide redress for the physical, material and moral damage inflicted on individuals, groups and nations.
“It fully acknowledges that no programme of reparations could possibly compensate for the harm and injustice suffered during the period of plantation slavery.”
However the Barbadian government’s national task force on reparations has criticised the decision to pay £7m on the grounds that the USPG did not negotiate the terms nor the amount with them.
Deputy Chairperson of the National Task Force on Reparations David Comissiong said the financial pledge cannot be considered as reparations because it had not been negotiated. He said that for the gesture to qualify, it must be the result of negotiations between the National Reparations Task Force and the CARICOM (Caribbean Community) Reparations Commission. He said :
“We certainly appreciate the gesture…but at the same time, you need to know that that is not reparations. If it is a unilateral gesture on your part, it is not reparations.
““We need to point out to the Church of England and all similar institutions that reparations are not about them unilaterally determining what compensation they prepared to make. Reparations do not work like that.”
A spokesman for the USPG said: “The project has been developed in close partnership with the Codrington Trust in Barbados, who own and manage the estates. Indeed, the programme proposals have come entirely from the Codrington Trust.
“As an organisation, we are seeking to take responsibility for our actions in the past through this programme of reparative activity. We will continue to be guided by our partnership with the Codrington Trust around the approach to reparations in Barbados.”
USPG says its mission is to contribute to and encourage the development of the Anglican Church – and more recently the United Churches – around the world.