Saturday, March 24, 2007

Slavery and meaningful action

The Church of England's approach to the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire is right. The leaders of this institution -- one of them a Ugandan by origin -- recognise its historical role as a beneficiary of slavery, and are using the commemoration to promote activity to fight slavery today.

This is more constructive than arguing about the appropriateness, or otherwise, of apologies - a debate that tends to go round and round, including on Radio 4's Any Questions (the most sensible contributor this week was Brigid Laffan). Willy Brandt falling to his knees in Warsaw is a very different thing from apologising for what others did two hundred years ago. Brandt was of the generation that fought World War Two. Known to have been an active opponent of the Nazi regime, as leader of Germany 25 years after the end of the war he was making a living gesture for his country and his generation.

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