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Church of England £100million ­slavery fund 'almost like bribery' and 'just for show', former race tsar says

Dr Tony Sewell (Photo by ITV/REX)
Dr Tony Sewell (Photo by ITV/REX)

Tory peer and former equality tsar Tony Sewell has described the Church of England’s £100million ­slavery reparation fund as “almost like bribery”.

Lord Sewell, who chaired Boris Johnson’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, claimed that the church had made a “political” decision to start the fund and was doing it “for show”, according to The Times.

The investment fund was announced in January to address the Church of England’s links to transatlantic slavery. The fund will go towards investment, research and engagement to “address past wrongs”.

But it has already been criticised as too small and slow, according to a report which calls for a target of £1billion.

In an interview with The Times published on Saturday, Lord Sewell said: “We need to have a conversation with the Archbishop [of Canterbury] and ask what he is doing.

“It would be so much better to focus on bringing people back to a time when the church was packed. They need to repair their base but they are doing something political, for show, giving away this cash.

He added: “It’s a strangely materialistic way for a spiritual organisation to work, almost like bribery. The church needs to rethink its purpose and stop using the race element as a mechanism to solve their own uncertainty in the world.”

S spokesperson for the Church Commissioners for England told the Standard: “The legacy of the evil of African chattel enslavement still affects the lives of millions of people in the world today - and we have rightly apologised for the role we played in this horrific wrong.

“As part of its response, the Church Commissioners has committed £100 million to establish the Fund for Healing, Repair and Justice.

“To put this £100million commitment in context, over the same period the Church Commissioners will be providing £3.6 billion of funding to support the mission and ministry of the Church of England.

“We believe that by addressing our past transparently, particularly this part of our past, the Church and its teachings will be more relevant to more people.  We see our response as an important missional activity that will support the work and ministry of the Church of England.”

Earlier this month an independent oversight group stated that £100million is “insufficient” to counter the “historic and enduring greed, cynicism and hate with penitence, hope and love”.

It said: “The sum of £100 million is very small compared to the scale of racial disadvantage originating in African chattel enslavement.”

The fund – which they said should be known as the Fund For Healing, Repair And Justice – will invest in members of disadvantaged black communities, aiming to “back their most brilliant social entrepreneurs, educators, healthcare givers, asset managers and historians”.

While there will be grants for non-profit investments “to promote and enhance healthy lives, thriving minds and cultural impact”, there will not be cash compensation for individuals or grants to government bodies, the group added.

But Rosemarie Mallett, Bishop of Croydon and chairwoman of the oversight group, said: “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 today.”

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby previouly said: “In seeking justice for all, we must continue to work together remembering that all are created in the image of God.

“The oversight group’s independent work with the Church Commissioners is the beginning of a multi-generational response to the appalling evil of transatlantic chattel enslavement.

“My prayer is that this work will stimulate further visionary and practical co-created action.”