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Archbishop of Canterbury backs removal of Cambridge slavery memorial



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The Archbishop of Canterbury has said the Church of England is taking too long to remove a memorial to a man who funded the slave trade.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

The plaque memorialising Tobias Rustat, who invested in the Royal African Company, is located inside a Cambridge University college chapel.

Last week, a three-day ecclesiastical hearing took place in Jesus College Chapel to decide if the memorial should be moved from the chapel to East House, another Jesus College building on the same site.

In comments carried by the BBC, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby asked: “Why is it so much agony to remove a memorial to slavery?”

Jesus College requested last year that the plaque be moved and exhibited in a “place of learning”.

Mr Welby asked why that was “so difficult” and said “we need to change our practices”.

Earlier, Lord Boateng, chair of the Archbishops’ Commission on Racial Justice, said at the General Synod that a lack of action on recommendations to address racial injustice was “chilling” and “a scandal”.

The memorial dedicated to Tobias Rustat located on the West wall of Jesus College Chapel. Picture: Keith Heppell
The memorial dedicated to Tobias Rustat located on the West wall of Jesus College Chapel. Picture: Keith Heppell

He said: “The most chilling thing about this report, the most concerning thing about this report, are the appendices, the long lists of previous recommendations which have not been implemented, promises made that have not been fulfilled.

“It is chilling, it is wounding, it is a scandal, and it has to be addressed.”

The opposition to the move was directed by a group of 65 Jesus College alumni. Their individual contributions allowed Justin Gau, a human rights lawyer and specialist fraud practitioner with almost 30 years experience at the Bar, to take on the case in December 2021. Mr Gau’s ad hominem attacks on witnesses drew sharp criticism from the Jesus College lead, Mark Hill QC.

The verdict is not expected this week but it has to be delivered within a month of the hearing.



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