Babados Anglicans setting example
R. Rose - Eye of the Needle
May 24, 2024

Babados Anglicans setting example

This weekend has been traditionally recognized and observed in the Caribbean and western hemisphere to mark African Liberation Day. In our own country this tradition began some 50 years ago with the first public activities organized by what was then the political movement called YULIMO, with a march and rally in the South Central/North Central constituencies.

The focus was then on mobilizing support for an end to the odious system of apartheid in southern Africa, and for the independence of those countries still under Portuguese colonial control. It was part of a worldwide solidarity movement which became so strong that it eventually contributed significantly to the freeing of the outstanding South African leader, Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990, and an end to apartheid itself four years later. The Portuguese colonies themselves gained independence after the military dictatorship in Portugal was ended in 1974. Though times have changed a lot since then, necessitating a change in the focus of African Liberation Day activities, it is still felt necessary to publicly press for deeper relations between the people of Africa and their descendants in the Caribbean.

One such connecting issue is the demand for reparatory justice for the descendants of the millions enslaved during European colonization and the genocide against the indigenous people of the Americas. It is a crusade pursued long ago by black Caribbean leaders among whom Marcus Garvey was the best known. The demand for reparations was based on the inhuman treatment of black people during slavery, the deprivation of their human rights and worse, by the fact that when slavery was ended, it was the slave owners, not the enslaved who received so-called “compensation”.

Today the movement for reparatory justice has become a significant world-wide one pursued by governments, political and social forces, and encompassing a wide cross-section of people. In several countries, an important part in the campaign for reparatory justice is being played by persons and groups in the religious community, including churches and individuals in the former colonizing countries.

Last year January for instance, the Church of England (Anglican Church), was forced to admit that it had benefited from slavery directly and pledged to contribute towards reparations for the descendants of those who had suffered under slavery. It had pledged a sum of 100 million pounds (sterling) towards this cause.

The Church of England has many offshoots in those Caribbean territories colonized by Britain, some of which became identified with colonization, racism and discrimination against black people in the Caribbean. In some of these islands and inside many of these churches, the situation is changing rapidly as is the outlook of those churches or at least, prominent elements within them.

Take Barbados for instance, an island long identified with conservatism for siding with interests inimical to those of most Caribbean people. That is no longer the case, and some of the most positive developments in respect of the campaign for reparations are now emanating from Barbados. In political terms for instance, the government of Prime Minister Mia Mottley plays a leading role in the global struggles of ex-colonial countries. Together with the Cave Hill campus of The UWI, the Mottley government is playing a supportive role in the regional and global fight for reparatory justice.

This seems to have had some positive effect on the normally conservative Anglican Community in Barbados.

Last Sunday for instance, in preaching the sermon to mark the start of an important Synod of the Anglican Church in Barbados, Anglican Bishop, Michael Maxwell expressed the support of the Barbadian church for reparatory justice, referring to the Church of England pledge, mentioned earlier. He told the Synod that the

Anglican Church had benefited from slavery and the reparatory fund pledged was “to address past wrongs”.

Bishop Maxwell said that although the legacy of slavery is “a part of history we would wish to be erased”, we “cannot stand still, exempt ourselves from this discussion and not play a part to enable citizens to receive needed help from those nations which benefited from slavery”. Significantly, the Anglican cleric did not just lean on the Church of England, for he said that the Church was looking into the sale and transfer of lands owned by the Church in Barbados to tenants. It was also working to make arable church lands available for farmers to contribute to the food security situation, and to schools for Agricultural Science.

These are very positive developments which fit in well with the African Liberation Day theme. I can only urge our local Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches not just to take heed but to TAKE ACTION in a similar vein. We also need the rest of our religious community which would not have the same conscience guilt as the Anglicans and Catholics to nevertheless give full support to the campaign for reparatory justice, and encourage their members to play an active role in it.

Best wishes to the organizers of the ALD activities and may they be a success.

  •  Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.