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Christian group aims to highlight aftermath of slavery

AMBITIOUS: Pastor Alton Bell is a driving force behind The Zong Project, which aims to build a boat similar to the slave ship The Zong

A GROUP OF Christians have embarked on a campaign to raise over £90,000 to finance the building of a ship which will sail around the coast of Britain in 2020 to raise awareness of the legacy of slavery and support local groups in developing activities designed to deal with the negative elements of that legacy. The ship will also sail to the Americas.

This fundraising campaign is being undertaken by the Movement of Justice and Reconciliation (MJR), an organisation set up in 2015 to draw attention to how slavery still impacts black people’s lives in the UK and abroad, as well as to call on society to take the necessary steps to address it.

Church leader Pastor Alton Bell is MJR’s chair.

He is desirous for churches to support and help MJR achieve its aims.

He told Soul Stirrings: “We carried out research which was revealed in 2017 and looked at the psychological and physical impact of slavery. The results showed it [has] affected the mental health and self-esteem of the descendants of those enslaved in the Caribbean.”


He added: “Some of the illnesses that affect the black community like diabetes and high blood pressure have their roots in slavery. During slavery, slaves lacked vitamin B12 which made them more susceptible to type 2 diabetes.” The total amount needed to build the boat is £175,000, and £80,000 - plus has already been raised. When the boat is built, it will be called The Zong, the same name given to a slave ship that caused a pivotal turning point in the fight to abolish slavery in the 18th century.

Pastor Bell said: “The purpose of sailing The Zong is to support projects that deal with the issues caused by the aftermath of slavery and work with local communities to formulate projects that deal with local issues.”

Pastor Bell believes some of the effects of that legacy are being seen in the knife crime and gang violence urban communities are now experiencing.

News of The Zong initiative has reached churches in the US, and MJR is currently in talks with the Southern Baptist Convention, who are interested in providing some support.

Aside from its focus on The Zong project, MJR’s aims are to carry out research that examines the after effects of slavery on the group it’s impacted the most – people of African descent. It also seeks to educate society on the findings of their research. This will entail developing material for schools and other educational establishments, running training courses for churches and community leaders and establishing permanent exhibitions.

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