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Slavery is an evil ‘beyond comprehension’ Archbishop Welby says on Zanzibar visit

15 May 2024

Neil Turner/Lambeth Palace

The Archbishop of Canterbury delivers his sermon in English which is translated into Swahili in Christ Church Cathedral

The Archbishop of Canterbury delivers his sermon in English which is translated into Swahili in Christ Church Cathedral

“THE consequences of the evil of slavery are beyond comprehension,” the Archbishop of Canterbury has said during his visit to Zanzibar over the weekend.

Archbishop Welby was on the island at the invitation of the Primate of Tanzania, the Most Revd Maimbo Mndolwa.

On his first day, on Friday, Archbishop Welby said that he had been “grieved” to visit the site of the old slave market, on which Christ Church Cathedral was built and where “the past atrocities committed here are actively remembered.

“The impact of sin is more extensive than we could ever know. The consequences of the evil of slavery are beyond comprehension. This can cause people to look away. However, we must honestly face our past. In fact, it is only when we do, that we can know redemption; for salvation always involves our confession, repentance, and intent to live in line with the Kingdom of God.”

On Sunday, he preached at a special eucharist in the cathedral on reconciliation and healing. The pulpit stands a few feet from the foundation of the old whipping post.

During the four-hour service, Archbishop Mndolwa also addressed these themes and the history of slavery on the island. The former Archbishop in Jerusalem, the Most Revd Suheil Dawani, referring to the war in Gaza, focused on working towards peace in the face of religious differences. And the President of Zanzibar, Hussein Mwinyi, praised the place of faith organisations in this process and announced a new national holiday to commemorate the abolition.

Archbishop Welby had met the Presidents of Zanzibar and Tanzania on Saturday. He posted on social media afterwards: “As Christians, we are called to be peacemakers. It was a privilege to meet the President of Zanzibar this morning where we discussed the importance of peace and stability in a world so often consumed with conflict and division. I was particularly encouraged to hear of his efforts to increase gender equality on the island.

“It was also wonderful to spend time talking and praying with bishops and clergy from the Anglican Church of Tanzania this afternoon. Please pray for them in their ministry of healing, caring for those in need and sharing Christ’s love.”

Reflecting on the visit on Monday, Archbishop Welby said: “I have been particularly struck by the willingness here to grapple with the island’s history of slavery. It has reminded me how important it is in the healing process that we, as individuals and institutions, honestly recognise past pain, humbly repent for any wrongdoing, and actively partner with the Holy Spirit to set the oppressed free today.”

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