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UK News

Church of England to expand target to address slavery links to £1bn

by Reuters Journalist

The Church of England has accepted a £1bn target to address historical financial links to the slave trade as recommended by an oversight group led by descendants of enslaved Africans which said the initial 100 million pounds was too low.

The group said on Monday that the fund was not enough when compared to the scale of the racial disadvantage caused by its past investments, and that the Church Commissioners, who manage the Church's £10bn investment arm today, in partnership with others, should aim for a bigger pot.

"The Church Commissioners have ... embraced a target of £1bn for a broader healing, repair and justice initiative with the fund at its centre," the oversight group's report said.

It did not contain details about the new pledge, and the Church of England did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion of about 85 million Christians, said in a statement accompanying the report that the group's work was the beginning of "a multi-generational response to the appalling evil of transatlantic chattel enslavement".

Bishop of Croydon Rosemarie Mallett, chair of the oversight group and a descendant of slavery herself, said implementing the report's recommendations would demonstrate commitment to the process of healing and justice.

"No amount of money can fully atone for or fully redress the centuries long impact of African chattel enslavement, the effects of which are still felt around the world," she added.

The body was set up in July by the Church Commissioners after revelations that its predecessor, called Queen Anne's Bounty, invested significant amounts in the slave-trading South Sea Company in the 18th century.

The Church made the previous pledge in January 2023 after a review of early ledgers and other documents instigated by the Church Commissioners themselves showed the scale of the investment and donations from individuals who were likely to have profited from transatlantic slavery.

The Church said at the time it wanted to address "shameful" wrongs and the money was aimed at building a fairer future for all, particularly for communities affected by past slavery. No money has yet been disbursed.

Major British institutions, from the royal family to the Bank of England, have been linked to the transatlantic slave trade, but the country has resisted calls for reparations.

The oversight group recommended that the Church fund be used to invest in Black-led businesses focusing on education, economic empowerment and health outcomes, as well as to provide grants to address issues in communities impacted by the legacies of slavery.

It also urged the timeline of delivery of the funds to be accelerated.

The Church Commissioners, who are due to comment on the report, have welcomed and accepted the report in full while also acknowledging that no amount of money can make up for the past, it had to be done, the report said.

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