The Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken of the Church of England's 'eternal shame' over links to slavery while visiting a 17th Century castle on Ghana’s Cape Coast. Africans were enslaved at the site before being transported to the Americas on British slave ships.
Most Rev Justin Welby, who is in Ghana for a meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) was joined by the Anglican Primates of West Africa and the West Indies. They went on to a Service of Reflection and Reconciliation at nearby Christ Church Anglican Cathedral.
During the tour the Archbishop, accompanied by his wife, Caroline Welby, visited the basement dungeons – known as “slave holes” – where Africans, taken from their homes sometimes hundreds of miles away, were held with little ventilation and no windows before being transported across the Atlantic.
The Archbishop paused to pray in silence in a small basement prison cell where up to 200 men were kept, underneath what was then a church.
During the tour he also saw the women's cells, the place where enslaved men and women were branded, and the Door of No Return through which enslaved people passed before boarding ships bound for the Americas.
Commenting on the visit, the Archbishop said:
"It was profoundly moving and humbling to visit Cape Coast Castle today with my brother Archbishops from Ghana and Jamaica. It was a reminder that the abomination of transatlantic chattel slavery was blasphemy: those who imprisoned men and women in those dungeons saw them as less than human.
"It is to the Church of England’s eternal shame that it did not always follow Christ’s teaching to give life. It is a stain on the wider church that some Christians did not see their brothers and sisters as created in the image of God, but as objects to be exploited.
"Our response must begin on our knees in prayer and repentance. In calling on the God who blesses the broken, the reviled and those who mourn. In looking to God who transforms, redeems and reconciles.
"But our response does not end there. We are called to transform unjust structures, to pursue peace and reconciliation, to live out the Beatitudes in big ways and small."
The Archbishop’s visit follows the recent report published by the Church Commissioners of England into its endowment’s historic links to transatlantic chattel slavery. In response to the findings, the Church Commissioners have committed to £100 million of funding to a programme of impact investment, research and engagement. The impact investment fund will invest particularly in communities impacted by historic transatlantic slavery.