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Church News

Church court refuses to approve removal of Cambridge memorial linked to slave trade

by Alex Collett

A Church court has refused a bid from a Cambridge College to remove a 300-year-old memorial which had links to the slave trade.

The memorial links to Tobias Rustat, a courtier of King Charles II, who invested in the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Rustat accumulated his wealth during his career as a courtier, but also invested in several trading companies which included the Royal African Company (RAC).

Jesus College in Cambridge claimed the memorial was 'incompatible with the chapel as an inclusive community and a place of collective wellbeing.'

The College wanted the memorial removed from the west wall of Jesus College Chapel and replaced in a permanent exhibition space elsewhere.

However the Diocese of Ely ruled against the appeal, saying the memorial should remain in place as a reminder of 'the imperfection of human beings.' 

Within the court summary conclusions statements Deputy Chancellor Hodge QC said: "Such forgiveness encompasses the whole of humankind, past and present, for we are all sinners; and it extends even to slave traders. 

"Jesus recognised that it would not be easy to be one of his followers; yet he led by his example."

Responding in a statement, Jesus College said: "We are deeply disappointed and shocked by the decision. Rustat's involvement in the slave trade has never been in question, and the widespread opposition to the presence of his memorial in the college chapel is the result of this involvement and not any false narrative apparently created by the college about the sources of Rustat's wealth.

"This celebratory memorial to an active participant in the slave trade remains a barrier to worship in our chapel for some members of our community.

"It was right for us to have submitted this application. We will now carefully consider our next steps."

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