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BISHOP WALKS THE WALK AS SLAVERY MARCHERS SAY SORRY

 18-06-2007

200 years after the Britain abolished the slave trade, should we be apologising for it? Campaigners who met the Bishop of Birmingham yesterday are in no doubt. They've been parading through the city wearing T-shirts with the slogan: "So Sorry".

The March of the Abolitionists is an attempt at "renconciliation", and traces some of the main routes used in the days of Empire to traffic human cargo.

Those involved are currently trekking from Birmingham to Cannock and on to Liverpool (see our previous article (see link here)

Yesterday, they arrived at Lifford in Kings Norton and headed along the canal network to Centenary Square, and they were joined for the day by Birmingham's Bishop - the Right Revd David Urquhart.

As you'll see from the pictures, the marchers T-shirts contain an apology - but should you really say sorry for something you weren't responsible for? Maybe in this case, the answer is yes.

Maybe it's instructive here to draw a comparison with the Nazis' genocide of the Jews in World War Two in which my grandparents and several other family members perished.

Do I blame modern day Germans for what happened? Certainly not - and nor does my dad, who was forced to flee his homeland at the age of 12 and make his home in Britain.

The difference here, though, is that the Holocaust is widely celebrated - if that's the right word - in popular culture.

There are films, seemingly endless TV series and museums to the dead in Auschwitz, Berlin and Washington. Reparations have been made to survivors.

In short, the Western world acknowledges the great wrong done to the victims of the "Final Solution."

Now it wouldn't be true to say that slavery has been ignored, but compared to the blaring sirens of Holocaust commemoration, it is little more than a background hum.

The fact that it took place 200 years ago may have something to do with that; but I reckon embarrassment and shame are also key factors.

If we own up to the awful reality of it all, we are forced to acknowledge that millions of people are still dealing today with the aftermath of the slave trade.

People of African descent would not have come populate the Caribbean without it; and it has also fostered the superiority complex of many whites towards their former colonial subjects in the many years since.

Slavery may have been abolished but imperial mindset lives on.

Saying sorry may not be the ideal answer; but if it moves us towards a final reckoning of the great wrongs committed more than two centuries ago, it may be no bad thing.

Should there be an apology for slavery? And if so who should make it? Leave a comment on our Message Board.

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