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Church leaders sign-up to join pilgrimage Walk of Witness

Event to mark Bicentenary of the Act for the Abolition of Slave Trade gathers pace

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, will be joined by a host of church leaders as they embark on an event set to draw many hundreds of Christians together in London to commemorate the landmark anniversary of the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade.

Church leaders confirmed so far to take a place alongside the Archbishops for the Walk of Witness on Saturday 24th March include: the President of the Methodist Conference, the Revd Graham Carter; the President of the Baptist Union, the Revd Kate Coleman; the Director of the Evangelical Alliance, Joel Edwards; the Chief Executive Officer of the African and Caribbean Evangelical Alliance, Katei Kirby; and the Chief Executive Officer of the Church Army, Mark Russell.

In addition, leaders from large black-led Churches in and around the capital are also joining the pilgrimage, including the Revd Jonathan Oleyede, Senior Associate Pastor at the Glory House Church, Plaistow. The Director of Christian Aid, Daleep Mukarji, has also pledged to join the walk, as has the Leader of Lambeth Council, Councillor Steve Reed.

The Revd Graham Carter, President of the Methodist Conference, says: “I am very pleased to be taking part in this event which marks the bicentenary of the legislation which helped end the transatlantic slave trade, largely due to the concerted efforts of Christians two hundred years ago. We also need to draw attention to the continuing trafficking of human beings taking place today, which needs a similarly concentrated effort to bring it to an end.”

The Revd Dr Kate Coleman, President of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, adds: “The significance of the Walk of Witness cannot be overstated.  My commitment to participate is related to my joint African and British heritage. I will walk to honour the memory of slaves who resisted dehumanisation in the face of unimaginable brutality. I will walk in the hope that profound relational healing will be experienced between those of African and European ancestry.  I will walk as a declaration that all expressions of slavery are as unacceptable today, as they were 200 years ago.”

Joel Edwards, General Director of the Evangelical Alliance, said: “I’m on this walk, not only as the descendant of a slave, but also as the product of redemption and hope. I walk with gratitude that the evil slave trade was abolished 200 years ago, but I am equally conscious that our flawed humanity has resulted in many genocides, atrocities and killing fields. This compels us to work together in fighting the injustice and greed which still threatens the human race.”

Daleep Mukarji, Director of Christian Aid, intends to participate both as an individual and on behalf of Christian Aid, an organisation that is working to deal with some of the legacy of the slave trade in Brazil, the Caribbean, and elsewhere. Dr Mukarji said: “We need to appreciate the pain and suffering that are the legacy of the slave trade. It is good to be part of a movement that has sought to deal with the effects of slavery and also to challenge modern systems that oppress and control poor people and certain countries. Christian Aid is committed to exposing this scandal, contributing to its eradication, and challenging the structures that still enslave people. We see this as part of our prophetic ministry to be advocates for justice.”

Two walks will simultaneously lead from Holy Trinity Clapham (where William Wilberforce worshipped) and Whitehall Place towards Kennington Park, for an act of open-air worship. The timetable for the each aspect of the Walk of Witness is:

11.30am Those walking from the centre of London assemble at Whitehall Place

12.15pm Proceed into Whitehall, across the front of Parliament into Millbank then over Lambeth Bridge, and down Kennington Road

1.00pm   Short Act of Worship at Holy Trinity Clapham for those starting from this point, followed by walk along Clapham High Street towards Kennington Park

c.2.15pm Walkers converge at Kennington Park for an Act of Worship focusing on Remembrance, Repentance, and Restoration.

 

A dedicated website, www.makingourmark.org.uk, contains full details of the routes and answers to frequently asked questions. A link also provides visitors with the opportunity to sign up to Anti-Slavery International’s declaration calling for measures to better understand the Transatlantic Slave Trade, redress its legacies, and end modern day slavery.

Making our Mark is benefiting from funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The venture is also supported by Anglican mission agency USPG, who today continue to work with churches in the Caribbean and West Africa. Making our Mark is the Church of England’s national contribution to Set All Free, a project of Churches Together in England working to commemorate the bicentenary.