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Churches accused of anti-slavery walk snub

Church leaders accused of snubbing an anti-slavery walk through Musselburgh, in a row over a controversial publicity poster, have been branded “hypocrites” by a slave descendant who led the march.

Clergy from St Andrew’s High, St Clements and St Ninians, St Michael’s Inveresk, and Musselburgh North Esk refused to publicise the Wedderburn Freedom Walk, organised by the Old Musselburgh Club last Sunday, because they deemed a advertising poster unsuitable for children.

The route of the walk re-enacts the journey taken by a Jamaican ex-slave, Robert Wedderburn, to see his father, the notorious ex-slave master, James Wedderburn, at Inveresk Lodge in 1795.

Action of Churches Together in Scotland (ACTS) organised a commemorative walk in his honour last year to mark the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade in British colonies.

But this is the second consecutive year four Musselburgh churches have shunned the walk, arguing that a 200-year-old promotional cartoon for the event, depicting a semi-naked female slave being brutalised on a British merchant ship, was too explicit.

In a letter to ACTS, St Andrew’s High minister, the Rev Yvonne Atkins, maintained that the poster would “not be used to advertise the walk in our churches”.

She added that it was “hard to believe” that there were not more suitable images that could be used and that local clergy had insufficient time to find a compromise with organisers.

ACTS assistant general secretary, Rev Lyndsey Sanderson, said they had helped organise commemorative events nationwide, yet the Musselburgh parish group were the only objectors to the poster campaign.

She said: “I was surprised at the nature of the complaint. They felt the image was inappropriate for children to see. I have children of five and seven-years-old and did not feel it was inappropriate for them to see for it conveys the truth and reality of historical events.”

• Full story at the East Lothian Courier.

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