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Church of England told to invest billion pounds over slavery

March 4, 2024

An advisory group has urged the Church of England to raise its fund for redressing slavery to 10 times of its current worth. The church set up the fund after it admitted it had invested in the African slave trade.

Inside of the St. Paul's Cathedral in London
The church has already pledged 100 million pounds to the fundImage: David Herraez Calzada/Zoonar/picture alliance

An independent Oversight Group on Monday said the Church of England should increase funds earmarked for redressing its historical ties to slavery.

Experts advising the church are calling for funding to rise tenfold, up to 1 billion pounds ($1.27 billion, €1.17 billion).

The Church of England is the mother church of global Anglicanism, which counts some 85 million members around the world.

How much did the Church of England pledge for its fund to address slavery ties?

The Church Commissioners, a body that administers the Church of England's funds and assets, said in January 2023 that it would support communities affected by slavery with 100 million pounds in investment over nine years.

The church leaders made the pledge after recognizing that the church had been funded with investments in the South Sea Company, an 18th-century company that was involved in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

On Monday, experts making the independent Oversight Group concluded that the amount was "insufficient" for achieving "true justice, reparation and healing" and called for the fund to be expanded to 1 billion pounds. They also called for the investment timeline to be sped up.

The group said the funds could be used to invest in Black-led businesses and provide grants to address issues in communities impacted by slavery.

The British Empire abolished slavery in 1833, after which it gave slave owners in the British West Indies a payout worth the equivalent of 20 billion pounds as compensation.

Anglican Bishop Rosemarie Mallet
Anglican Bishop Rosemarie Mallet said she hoped other British institutions would follow in the Church of England's footsteps in addressing historical ties to slaveryImage: Rich Barr/dpa/picture alliance

Church argues current amount is 'appropriate'

The Church Commissioners said the amount already pledged was the "appropriate financial commitment" at this stage, while signaling "ambition" to expand the fund further.

"Our hope is that others will join us and invest alongside us and that through our investment, through co-investment from others and through the investment funds growing from returns," said Gareth Mostyn, chief executive and secretary of the Church Commissioners.

"We hope that the fund will grow hopefully to a billion and more and create a lasting positive legacy," he added.

Church officials said it would encourage other institutions to work to redress their links to slavery.

"We recognize that the Church of England is deeply embedded in the core of the institutions of this country," said Rosemarie Mallett, the bishop of Croydon.

"We recognize that our responsibility that we've taken on intentionally is to do what we can do, and really hope that by doing what we can do, others will look at us and see that as an example."

Last year, King Charles III announced his support for research into the British monarchy's historical ties to slavery.

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sdi/dj (AFP, Reuters, AP)