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World News

Quakers to make reparation for slave trade and colonialism

by Donna Birrell

Quakers have agreed to make practical reparations for the trans-Atlantic slave trade, colonialism and economic exploitation. 

At an annual gathering at the Friends’ Meeting House in London, which was attended by more than 1000 Quakers, all meetings and trustees were asked to examine their resources and consider how to make reparations by financial and other means.

The decision builds on work already done to understand how to make reparations for the actions of the past and their enduring consequences felt in lives today.

Quakers were led to this decision after hearing powerful evidence about Lancaster Quakers in the 18th and 19th centuries, who profited from the enslavement of people. They also heard about the personal experience of racism of some of their own members.

A statement agreed: “Just as our Quaker forebears were sometimes on the wrong side of history, so we all are complicit in systems of oppression today, including exploitative labour practices in the creation of the technology that enables this blended Yearly Meeting, and in the clothes that we wear.”

Siobhan Haire, Clerk of Yearly Meeting told Premier: “We’ve been considering explicitly issues of diversity, inclusion, equity and privilege for a few years now. Last year we made a commitment to becoming an anti-racist church and I see this very much as the next step on the journey and thinking about what that means practically in the world.

“These are Quakers who were merchants who either themselves owned ships which were used for the transportation of enslaved people, or themselves held slaves. It’s important to acknowledge the truth of our history and to acknowledge that we were not the sort of squeaky clean abolitionist that we might remember today. Parts of organisations benefited from the wealth that accrued for people who held slaves or people who invested in companies that benefited from that exploitation. How do we put this right? Respond to that?

 “We need to take urgent action as individuals, in our local, area and yearly meetings.”

The decision was summarised in an epistle which will be shared with all Quaker bodies nationally and locally, so they can consider how to respond with practical and meaningful action. It can be found here.



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