Ethics & Christian living

Why I am not celebrating this jubilee – by Neil Charlton

Dear Elizabeth II,

I genuinely wish you and your family well, but I will not be participating in your Platinum Jubilee celebration.

I and many others see no reason to celebrate 70 years of your ascension to the British throne because your leadership, and that of your predecessors, have presided over one of the greatest human rights tragedies in the history of humankind.

During your 70 years on the throne, you have done nothing to specifically address and atone for the suffering of our ancestors that took place during your reign and/or during the entire period of British trafficking of Africans, enslavement, indentureship and colonialisation.

Direct beneficiaries

You and your family are direct beneficiaries of the wealth accumulated by the Royal family over centuries, including that stemming from the trafficking and enslavement of Africans.

You have had ample time and the unique opportunity to offer a direct apology or recognition of the need for atonement and reparations for the people of African descent in existing or former Commonwealth nations, yet you have chosen not to do so.

Reparatory justice

I urge you to reflect carefully on why you should apologise and begin a process of reparatory justice. It is unconscionable that enslavers have been compensated under the Slave Compensation Act (1837), with some payments converted into 3.5% government annuities which lasted until 2015, yet to date there has been no compensation paid to the descendants of enslaved Africans.

If Britain can honour a 185 year old debt to the beneficiaries of enslavers why can it not honour a 185 year old debt to the descendants of the enslaved. 

Healing

Like many others, I am of the view that an apology for British crimes against humanity, including but not limited to, the exploitation of the indigenous people of Jamaica, the transatlantic trafficking of Africans, the enslavement of Africans, indentureship and colonialisation, is absolutely necessary to begin a process of genuine healing, forgiveness, reconciliation and compensation.

As a devoted Christian you will no doubt be aware that even the man to whom Jesus requested an audience with at his home realised that an apology alone was not an adequate response to his past financial injustices (Luke 19:1-10).

Recompense is an important fruit of remorse and the very essence of the original Judaic principle and practice of Jubilee, namely the compulsory restoration of economic resources to its original owners or their heirs. How I wish your gloriously expensive celebrations would truly embrace and embody this aspect of Jubilee.

Silence

Perhaps you may consider the content and timing of this letter distasteful or disrespectful. I would kindly disagree. Rather, I find it distasteful and disrespectful that after so many years on the throne you remain noticeably silent on such a crucial issue.

Although you may not issue any laws or administer justice directly, your platform, your voice, and your corresponding actions could literally begin to heal generational wounds.

Yet your silence does the very opposite. Speaking out on such matters would require a special kind of courage. As you once said yourself,

“we need a special kind of courage, not the kind needed in battle but a kind which makes us stand up for everything that we know is right, everything that is true and honest.”

Where is this special courage today, I ask?

Painful struggles

While many will be happily celebrating your Jubilee this weekend others within your former colonies and present Commonwealth realms are still painfully struggling with the psychological, economic and political legacy of British slavery and colonialism.

These deep-seated generational issues will not be abated by the waving of flags or observing your royal pageantry. For many, your continued silence provides no lasting solace or motivation for celebration.

I continue to pray for you and your family and hope that during your special national celebration this year you and many others would somehow be reminded of the true meaning of the original Jubilee. Although, going by the past 70 years I am not currently convinced that it will.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Charlton


Neil Charlton is a Youth Worker in South London. This is a modified version of an open letter from the Jamaican Advocacy Group signed by 100 Jamaican leaders in March 2022.

6 thoughts on “Why I am not celebrating this jubilee – by Neil Charlton”

  1. I was once involved in substitutional repentance with a group of Africans. The church I lead is black majority.
    They looked at us in disbelief as if we were mad. The issue is, how do we show repentance for what we have not personally done. What will that repentance look like? And how will we know we have repented enough? In the late 90s here in Leeds, a group of people from Wales came to pray Gods blessings on the city, only to discover they couldn’t forgive the English.

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    1. thanks Andy. These are good questions. Quite a lot of work has gone on to what reparations could look like and I am sure that there is a lot of debate about the merits of apologies even when not accompanied by financial or other more tangible forms of repentance.

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  2. It’s been really encouraging to hear about an official 500-page report released by the state of California into the effects of ongoing policies and discrimination on Black Americans following the abolition of slavery and recommending reparations in various forms (https://apnews.com/article/california-race-and-ethnicity-san-francisco-voter-registration-0cb66f61c4b9f0136c43a17408720d98)

    May our government (and monarchy!) draw inspiration from this!

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