Rev Dr Timothy Bradshaw on an important archive in a college library

Term is now in full swing. The freshers arrived last week for their inductions, notably into the pubs and clubs of Oxford by existing JCR members but also into the libraries, faculties and subject tutors in their colleges.

The Oxford University equality and diversity office is booming, sending out a newsletter with information on diversity projects including religious festival dates, gay history month, dyslexia awareness, anti-bullying week, black history month, HeForShe gender equality movement, and unconscious bias.

There is also mention of a lecture by Sir Hilary Beckles, vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies, the inaugural race and the curriculum lecture. His lecture will concern the issue of reparatory justice and the history of slavery.

Our Prime Minister visited Jamaica recently and was asked for reparations from the UK for this historic abuse.

The Angus Library at Regent’s Park College has in its archive a substantial documentation of the campaign to end slavery in Jamaica, and mounted an educational exhibition in the spring of 2014, followed by a lecture by Government minister Karen Bradley who was guiding the Anti-Slavery Bill through the Commons.

The reason why Regent’s, with its background in the Baptist tradition, has this important archive is that the Baptists in Jamaica were the driving force in ending slavery there, finally succeeding in 1838.

The abominable practice lingered on in the Colonies well after the abolition of the trade in 1807.

William Knibb, a Baptist missionary, led the campaign in Jamaica, and Sam Sharpe, a black slave, was a key figure, killed in the process.

Jesse Jackson, an honorary Fellow of Regent’s, once packed out our large main hall with a speech identifying the wrongs still being done to young black Americans, including the statistic that there are more black American youths in prison than in education in some states.

It is interesting that, when it comes to standing up for the victims of oppression and enslavement, the evangelical churches do seem to have been at the forefront of the battle for reform and rescue.

William Wilberforce famously campaigned for years in Parliament, basing his life on prayer with his evangelical friends in Clapham, with the Quakers in particular.

Likewise, when it came to helping persecuted Jews escape from the Third Reich, it was the smaller denominations, the Quakers and Salvation Army especially, who were at the cutting edge in fixing up artificial jobs required before the refugees were allowed in, saving thousands of lives.

All colleges will have as a core aim the production of good people, not just clever people who know a lot.

Education is about real wisdom, seeking to develop caring for others as well as moving onwards and upwards in a career track. We must not be people who look away in the face of suffering, oppression and enslavement.