25 March 2022

March 25th marks the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, a moment to remember the African holocaust in which millions died and suffered horrors under the dehumanizing economic system founded on slavery and perpetuated by colonialism. It is also an opportunity to reflect upon slavery’s legacy in our contemporary society. For over 400 years, Euro-American nations, their colonies, and organisations based in them presided over and profited from the capture, enslavement, transportation, transplantation, and exploitation of over 12 million African people. This date offers a time for all people to remember, to reflect, and to repent. For the peoples of Europe and America, whose economic dominance is rooted in the profits of the slave trade and whose history since its abolishment is tainted by inequality and racist violence, steps toward reparations are an urgent obligation.

The United Nations houses a global family of diverse nations from the global North and South to foster peace and development. However, there will never be authentic peace until there is justice through reparations for the many acts of dehumanisation committed against the most vulnerable. Such peoples include the African victims and heirs of the Transatlantic Trade Slave within the African continent and among Africans in the Diaspora.

The theme for the 2022 UN commemoration is “Stories of Courage: Resistance to Slavery and Unity against Racism.”  The website of this commemoration states: ‘Behind the facts and figures are millions of human stories. The stories of those who were ripped from their homelands and families. The stories of those who fought against their oppressors. The stories of those who triumphed against all odds to win their freedom. Those stories continue today as people across the globe keep struggling together against the transatlantic slave trade’s most enduring legacy—racism.”  https://www.un.org/en/events/slaveryremembranceday/2022/events.shtml

The United Nations must, therefore, do more to hold the nations morally accountable, especially the USA, the UK and those of nations from Europe that perpetrated and benefited from slavery and the slave trade who must make reparatory restitutions to their victims.

Since 2017, CWM has taken steps to face up its own history that is tied to the systems of enslavement, colonisation, and racist violence.  The London Missionary Society (LMS) began in 1795, when the slave trade was still in full force. The directors from this era owned plantations and invested plantation profits into the finances of the LMS.  Other Western mission societies of the time also perpetuated a European supremacist ideology that belittled the human dignity of Africans and African descendants as lesser human beings.  CWM, being the heir of LMS, is committed to repent of and make restitution for this wrong; our history too is not clean. Yet even with this complicity, we also embraced a history of dissenting prophetic leaders who resisted the mechanistic dehumanisation of the slave system and entered into costly solidarity with its victims.

CWM, therefore, joins with the UN to acknowledge our past complicity and to challenge contemporary social, political, and economic systems of slavery that exist among many nations and continue to perpetrate racial inequity throughout the world. CWM will mark Aug 23, 2022, the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition as that date to launch its Onesimus Project of remembrance and repentance for all the victims of enslavement as we pledge our acts of restitution and reparation. We, therefore, invite the UN family of nations and the global ecumenical and ecclesial communities of faith to work assiduously for reparation and reconciliation for all victims of God’s creation.

Rev. Dr Jooseop Keum                                       Rev. Prof. Roderick R. Hewitt
General Secretary                                              Chairperson
Council for World Mission                                CWM Legacies of Slavery Core Group